Thunder in the hills: North Wilkesboro, 20 years later
NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. -- Paint peels and memories fade but the echoes of the past still ring off the hillsides here. Twenty years ago today, the checkered flag fell on the final NASCAR premier series race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Bob Flock won the first race, in 1949 and on dirt. Jeff Gordon won the last, in 1996 and on asphalt. The two races serve as bookends for a track that even after 20 years of silence serves as a reminder of the sport's colorful past. For 48 years and 93 races, NASCAR teams made the trek to the secluded .625-mile track in the Brushy Mountains of northwestern North Carolina. "It's one of the sport's most historic tracks, one that really helped put NASCAR on the map," car owner Richard Childress said. "A lot of people overlook that. But a lot of great things happened there. (Former series sponsor) R.J. Reynolds really supported it; Holly Farms back in the day … all those things were important to building our sport to what it is today." Built by Wilkes County resident Enoch Staley and partners Lawson Curry and Jack and Charlie Combs, North Wilkesboro Speedway was a venue unlike any other -- in part because the front straightaway ran slightly downhill and the backstretch uphill. It opened in 1947, two years before the debut of NASCAR's Strictly Stock Series, and hosted its first NASCAR premier series event in October of '49. The Wilkes 200 featured a 22-car field and was the final race of the inaugural season for NASCAR's new featured series. Flock won the race but it was Red Byron, finishing 16th, who captured the series' first championship. RELATED: Veterans share fond memories of track
Sadler savors XFINITY victory at Darlington
RELATED: Race results " At-track gallery " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Sadler gear DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Elliott Sadler had a passenger for Saturday's VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway -- in spirit at least. After a breathtaking battle against Denny Hamlin over the closing laps, Sadler crossed the finish-line .454 seconds ahead of Hamlin to win for the first time at the Lady in Black -- and immediately dedicated the victory to JR Motorsports team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who announced on Friday he would sit out the remainder of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup season because of a concussion. RELATED: Junior announces he will miss rest of 2016 season "This win today is for my man, Dale Earnhardt Jr .," Sadler said. "I know he's going through a tough time. He's not being able to race his race car for the rest of the year. He was riding there with me today, and he's given me such a great opportunity to be a part of his race team." With two laps left in the 147-lap event, however, the outcome was in the balance. Sadler had a lead of .715 seconds when he crossed the stripe to complete Lap 145. But he started sliding toward the outside wall in Turn 2 and had to fight to keep his No. 1 Chevrolet under control. Hamlin pulled to the inside and the cars raced side-by-side down the backstretch, but as they entered Turn 3, Sadler regained momentum and pulled ahead in the top lane as the drivers approached the white flag. Hamlin got an excellent run through Turns 1 and 2 on the final lap but not enough to make a pass. "I messed up, man," Sadler said of the close call on the penultimate lap. "I could kind of see him coming, and I was trying to make up some time, and I started focusing on a lapped car in front of me, and I ran out of room and almost gave it to him. "But all in all, we were able to hold him off." The victory was Sadler's first at Darlington in 32 starts across all three of NASCAR's national series. He won for the second time in the XFINITY Series year and for the 12th time in 320 XFINITY starts. Making only his second start of the season in the series, Hamlin was frustrated in his attempt to win at Darlington for the fifth time. "We definitely had a good line going through (Turns) 1 and 2," Hamlin said, "But I didn't get a good restart (on Lap 112, after the last of three cautions), he got position on me, and track position meant so much. Once he ran the high line, my car was entirely too tight to run low. "It eliminated our passing opportunity unless we could slide-job him there in Turn 3 on that one lap he messed up, but it didn't happen." Daniel Suárez ran third after challenging Hamlin for second place -- until a brush with the wall ended his chances. But the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota held third place ahead of Kyle Larson , who spun entering pit road from the lead on Lap 103 to cause the final caution and caused a major shakeup of positions within the top 10. Brennan Poole came home fifth and clinched a spot in the inaugural XFINITY Series Chase, as did Darrell Wallace Jr . (17th on Saturday) and Brandon Jones (ninth). That leaves three spots still open with two regular-season races left before the Chase field is set.
RECAP: Sadler wins one for the boss
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman recaps the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 as Elliott Sadler holds off Denny Hamlin to grab his first career win at Darlington Raceway and his second of the season for JR Motorsports.
Cale Yarborough named honorary pace car driver at Darlington
RELATED: See all the paint schemes " Vote for your favorite DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Cale Yarborough once again will be driving on the legendary high banks of Darlington Raceway . On Sunday, Sept. 4, Yarborough, a South Carolina native and NASCAR Hall of Famer, will pace the field as the honorary pace car driver for the 67th running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 . "This is quite an honor and I'm really looking forward to being the honorary pace car driver for the Bojangles' Southern 500 ," Yarborough said. "The Southern 500 is the reason I got into racing. When I saw my first one, I knew that's what I wanted to do. Darlington is a tough, ol' race track that can give you fits. When I was racing, I wanted to win the Southern 500 more than any other race. I still get goose bumps when I drive by the race track. I just may have to run a few laps and show those young folks how it's done." Yarborough has five career wins at his hometown track, all coming in the Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend (1968, 1973, 1974, 1978 and 1982). Yarborough won three consecutive NASCAR premier series championships from 1976-78. He also won four Daytona 500 races and posted 83 career NASCAR Cup Series victories with 69 career pole awards. Yarborough also will be honored by Darlington Raceway with a special ceremony during the Bojangles' Southern 500 race weekend for his contributions to the sport. Additionally, he will participate in the Bojangles' Legends Breakfast Sunday morning (Sept. 4), along with other NASCAR Hall of Fame members. He was elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012. The Tradition Continues on Labor Day weekend as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 ® is set for Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016 (6 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90). The NASCAR XFINITY Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 will race Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90). You can keep up with all of the latest news from Darlington Raceway at DarlingtonRaceway.com , on Facebook at Facebook.com/DarlingtonRaceway and on Twitter at Twitter.com/TooToughToTame . Fans are encouraged to post their Bojangles’ Southern 500 stories and memories at #TraditionContinues, #BojanglesSo500 and #SportClips200. Darlington Raceway has been recognized by the following: • 2016 SportsBusiness Journal “Sports Event of the Year” Nominee • 2015 NMPA Myers Brothers Award • 2015 NASCAR Marketing Team of the Year • 2015 NASCAR Track PR Representative of the Year (Dennis Worden) • 2015 Community Pride Award (presented by the Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce) &lt;/p&gt;
NASCAR TV schedule: August 29 - September 4
RELATED: Find NBCSN in your area " Find CNBC in your area All times ET Monday, August 29 1:30 a.m., NASCAR Victory Lane (re-air), FS1 9 a.m., NASCAR Victory Lane (re-air), FS1 9:30 a.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Careers for Veterans 200 presented by Cooper Standard and Brad Keselowski 's Checkered Flag Foundation (re-air), FS1 2 p.m., NASCAR: The List - Texas Motor Speedway (re-air), NBCSN 2:30 p.m., NASCAR: The List - Daytona Memories (re-air), NBCSN 3 p.m., NASCAR 120, NBCSN 5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1 6 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN Tuesday, August 30 6:30 a.m., WeatherTech SportsCar Championship: Virginia International Raceway (re-air), FS1 5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1 5:30 p.m., NASCAR Scan All Special: Charlotte, Pocono, Michigan, NBCSN 6 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN Wednesday, August 31 5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1 8 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN 9 p.m., Southern Speed: Legend of Darlington, NBCSN 9:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Careers for Veterans 200 presented by Cooper Standard and Brad Keselowski 's Checkered Flag Foundation (re-air), FS2 Thursday, Sept. 1 6 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN 7 p.m., NASCAR Whelen Modified Series: Riverhead Raceway (taped), NBCSN Friday, Sept. 2 7 a.m., NASCAR America (re-air), NBCSN Noon, Southern Speed: Legend of Darlington (re-air), NBCSN 5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN 5:30 p.m., Southern Speed: Legend of Darlington (re-air), NBCSN 6:30 p.m., NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race: Douglas County Speedway (taped), NBCSN Saturday, Sept. 3 2 a.m., NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race: Douglas County Speedway (re-air), NBCSN 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, CNBC & on NBCSN from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. 12:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN 1:30-3 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN 3 p.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series Countdown to Green, NBC 3:30 p.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 , NBC 5:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FS2 11 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice (re-air), NBCSN Sunday, Sept. 4 12:30 a.m., Southern Speed: Legend of Darlington (re-air), NBCSN 2 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series SetUp, FS1 2:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 , FS1 5 p.m., NASCAR America Sunday, NBCSN 5:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Countdown to Green, NBCSN 6 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 , NBC 11 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Post-Race Show, NBCSN Midnight, NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1 Midnight, Southern Speed: Legend of Darlington (re-air), NBCSN &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp;
Daniel Suarez earns $100,000 third-place finish
RELATED: More on Dash 4 Cash DARLINGTON, S.C. – Winning the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus wasn't on the mind of Daniel Suarez during the closing laps of Saturday's VFW Sports Clips 200 at Darlington Raceway . That's because the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was concerned about something a bit more important – his first NASCAR XFINITY Series win. "No it’s not," Suarez said following his third-place finish. "But the victory is." Late green-flag pit stops by the leaders cycled the No. 18 Toyota of Suarez into the lead, and with his team instructing him to save fuel, the 23-year-old nursed his advantage for as long and as far as he could –until the rocket-fast entry of teammate Denny Hamlin came roaring past with just three laps remaining on its way to the checkered flag. Fellow teammate Kyle Busch shot around Suarez to claim second as JGR drivers swept the top three spots in the series' 24th stop. Third wasn't first, but it was tops among the four eligible drivers competing for the final $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus. Others vying for the award were Brian Scott (12th), Ty Dillon (15th) and Chase Elliott (24th). "After I hit the wall, for some reason … I messed something up and I wasn't able to hear 100 percent my spotter and my people," Suarez said. "I was able to understand them but when we were under the green flag it was tough. "When we had maybe 20 laps to go, when we took the lead, they were telling me to save fuel … I was saving; I wanted to save but I didn’t want to lose the lead, either. It's always hard to be in the position when you need to save fuel and you are leading the race because I wanted to go; I wanted to lead more. "But the problem is if I go, and for some reason we run out of fuel, that's my fault." Suarez qualified for the fourth segment in this year's Dash 4 Cash program by finishing fifth last month at Bristol, earning his first $100,000 bonus. Regan Smith (JR Motorsports) had won the season's first two segments, at Dover and Indianapolis. In a NASCAR.com fan pole asked to pick the Darlington Dash 4 Cash winner, Suarez received only eight percent of the vote. Scott received 40 percent of the vote, Elliott 37 percent and Dillon 15 percent. "We were alright; it's just once everyone started pitting as early as they did, I got a little bit scared and I knew we had a buffer," Eric Phillips, crew chief for Suarez, said. "And in my mind, we were racing the 3 (Dillon), the 2 (Scott) and the 9 (Elliott) for that XFINITY $100,000. "The fuel situation was probably close. But … probably not as close because we saved a lot of gas there at the end – probably too much gas." Hamlin pitted with 27 laps remaining in the 147-lap race, a move necessitated due to problems filling the car with fuel on a previous stop. But the flip side of the earlier-than-anticipated trip to pit road eventually played into the driver's favor – the fresh tires enabled him to shoot through the field as others stopped to eventually reel in his teammate. "He did a great job," Phillips said of his driver, who made contact with the wall during practice on Friday and again on the second lap of Saturday's race. "The hardest thing with him is to get him to understand that's part of this place. It's going to happen. The best of them have done it all the time. You've got to go keep dealing with it, and you're going to do it. You're pushing as hard as we pushed, and we probably didn't have the best car but we got a good finish and did what we needed to do today." It was the first trip to Darlington's difficult 1.366-mile track for Suarez. A third-place finish and second consecutive $100,000 bonus didn't make up for the lost opportunity, but it made it easier to digest. "I felt like we were a top-10 car," said Suarez. "We were running seventh, sixth maybe, not much better than that. And we finished third. So we'll take it."
Heads up: Darlington/MoSport weekend
Here are the hot topics, trending news and key story lines to get you ready for this weekend's races at Darlington Raceway and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park . WEATHER Heavy rain pummeled Darlington on Friday, with Hurricane Hermine passing through. The rest of the weekend will be gorgeous -- sunny, with highs in the mid-80s. In Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada site of the Camping World Truck Series event, expect plenty of sun with the high around 24 degrees Celsius -- that's about 75 degrees Fahrenheit (we used Google). KEY TIMES Sprint Cup Series: Practices for Friday were postponed due to the threat of severe weather, so this is a new lineup. Cars will be on track at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday for practice. The race is on NBC at 6 p.m. ET Sunday. XFINITY Series: The XFINITY Series has an early Saturday, with practice at 9 a.m. ET and the race following at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Camping World Truck Series: The Camping World Truck Series runs practice and qualifying on Saturday before following with a Sunday show. The 2:30 p.m. ET start time (TV: FS1) creates a beautiful doubleheader, with the Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington at 6 p.m. CATCH DRIVERS LIVE We'll stream every driver press conference in the Darlington media center at NASCAR.com/presspass . Make note of Sunday when Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2:30 p.m. ET) and Mark Martin (3:15 p.m. ET) precede Barry Williams, who portrayed Greg Brady on the "Brady Bunch" (3:30 p.m. ET), for one of the more unusual back-back-to-back appearances we've had this year. LAST TIME Darlington? More like Carlington. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver flipped out after his second win of the year, which was aided by a blistering pit stop following the 18th and final caution of the race. In addition to the Southern 500 win, Edwards had previously won the Coca-Cola 600 -- two marquee wins in his first season with JGR. The throwback weekend was a huge success as well, setting the stage for an even bigger 2016 version. YOU SHOULD KNOW ... • Weather caused late changes to the at-track schedule, so there will be no qualifying. The field is lined up by owner points. • This is throwback weekend. Paint schemes will be totally different to pay tribute to the sport's rich and colorful history, crew members will likely dress up and we'll see plenty of throwback clothes from the 1975-84 era (helllllllo, bell-bottoms). What else should you expect? Plenty of surprises. • Don't fall in love with all those pretty throwback schemes, though. Many will get torn up due to the nature of Darlington's challenging 1.366-mile track. Darlington stripes, all around! That said, don't expect as many cautions as last year. Those 18 came about, in part, because NASCAR was trying out a low-downforce package. • The Chase bubble is tight. Twelve drivers have officially clinched their spots in the 16-driver Chase Grid, leaving four spots open. Keep an eye on Chris Buescher . He plays a massive role in determining the postseason because he has a win, but hasn't locked up a top-30 points spot yet (a requirement). If he slips out of the top 30, he won't make the postseason. His current position? In 30th, six points up on David Ragan .
How Darlington's distinctive design was made
RELATED: Buy tickets " See all the throwback paint schemes Editor's Note: This story first ran on NASCAR.com on September 2, 2015 ahead of last season's throwback race at Darlington Raceway . The unique, oblong layout of Darlington Raceway was made by design in 1949, a year before it welcomed NASCAR's big leagues for its first 500-mile race. How it happened is no small fish tale, in a manner of speaking. When Harold Brasington purchased 70 acres of land from farm owner Sherman Ramsey for the site of NASCAR's first superspeedway, there was one condition -- Ramsey requested that the minnow pond on his property not be disturbed. The result was a set of turns on one end of the track that was tighter than the opposite end, which gives the track its distinctive egg shape. The abstract layout continues to challenge NASCAR drivers and crew chiefs alike, some 65-plus years after its debut. Among the track’s many traditions is the "Darlington Stripe," a black tire mark created from cars’ frequent brushes along the outside retaining wall. RELATED: See the best Darlington Stripes in NASCAR history Kyle Petty -- who had a history of futility on the 1.366-mile track, with zero top-five finishes in 51 Cup starts at Darlington -- famously quipped in an ESPN interview after a crash that the track would be better served to be filled with water for bass fishing. Had that unlikely conversion ever happened, Petty would have had a ready source for bait in Ramsey's pond. The track, known as "The Lady in Black," has also been known as one that is "Too Tough to Tame" and is one of the more unique configurations in NASCAR and will provide quite the challenge for drivers in both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Labor Day weekend. The XFINITY Series VFW Sports Clips Help A Hero 200 is on Sept. 3 (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 is on Sept. 4 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Sadler motivated by absence of team owner, Earnhardt Jr.
RELATED: Sadler sits atop points standings NASCAR XFINITY Series points leader Elliott Sadler is using the absence of his JR Motorsports team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., as a source of inspiration and motivation in his quest for a first championship. "We've kind of been racing for him these last couple weeks ... a month or so," said Sadler, who leads the XFINITY standings by 47 points over second-place Daniel Suarez . "We kind of know what our boss is going through. We talk about it on our race team at the race track some. When you watch practice on TV, or the watch the ( Sprint Cup ) race on Sunday, and he's not in the race car, it affects us. "We want the best for him. He's given all of us a great opportunity. We want him to enjoy the same fun, the same competitive spirit that we're having week-in and week-out. So we definitely talk about it as a team and wish him nothing but the best coming back. And it definitely gives us some incentive to finish on a high note, now that he’s out of the car." Sadler is locked into the inaugural XFINITY Chase, and the veteran driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet got more recent good news -- his primary sponsor, OneMain Financial, will return for another season on the car in 2017. Sadler will next race in Saturday's VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Sadler dedicates Darlington win to Dale Jr.
Elliott Sadler dedicates his first career win at Darlington Raceway to his friend and boss Dale Earnhardt Jr. after winning the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 .