This weekend marks the 54th running of the Mountain Dew Southern 500 and the end of its traditional Labor Day date as next year's schedule has the series in California. A couple of NASCAR legends and former Ford drivers - Ned Jarrett and...
This weekend marks the 54th running of the Mountain Dew Southern 500 and the end of its traditional Labor Day date as next year's schedule has the series in California. A couple of NASCAR legends and former Ford drivers - Ned Jarrett and Cale Yarborough - spoke about their Darlington memories and how they feel about the schedule changes that have taken place.
Cale Yarborough is tied for the most Southern 500 victories with five and is the only driver in the history of NASCAR Winston Cup racing to win three consecutive series championships. Yarborough, who won 13 races while driving for the Wood Brothers from 1966-70, scored 10 of his 83 career wins in a Mercury and five others in a Ford.
CALE YARBOROUGH , 1976, 1977, 1978 Champion
WHEN YOU THINK OF DARLINGTON WHAT KINDS OF MEMORIES DO YOU HAVE?
"This is where my racing career started - down the hill in Darlington in the soap box derby when I was 10 years old. Then they built this race track after I had already started on the local dirt tracks, and when I saw this race track I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It's been a big inspiration to me and having been able to win five Southern 500's here - a record that stood for so long, it's just been great. I told somebody the other day, Jeff Gordon has tied my record with five but that doesn't really count because Jeff never won one on the old Darlington race track and I did. I won the last one on the old Darlington race track."
WHAT WAS THAT OLD DARLINGTON RACE TRACK LIKE?
"You wrecked every lap. You went out in what used to be the third turn and when you went in there you backed it off that guard rail and you bumped it every lap. All the way around - bam, bam, bam - all the way around. You had to survive 500 miles to be able to beat everybody else."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE YOUR FIRST TIME AT DARLINGTON?
"The first time I came here, like I said, I came off the short dirt tracks and I was good. I was winning all the time on the short dirt tracks and when I came here I was 17 years old when I ran my first Southern 500. I thought I was gonna conquer the world. I knew it all because I was beating everybody on the local tracks, but it didn't take me long to figure out that I didn't know nothing. I had a long ways to go, but I was determined to make it and I worked at it."
YOU WON THREE NWC CHAMPIONSHIPS, BUT WHERE DO YOUR SOUTHERN 500 WINS RANK?
"Anybody that hasn't won a race on the Darlington race track has not completed his goal, I'll tell you that. And winning that 1968 Southern 500 on the old Darlington race track before they redesigned it, I wouldn't take that win for all of them put together almost."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE LABOR DATE BEING MOVED?
"I hate to see it mainly for all of the people in the country who will have to cancel Labor Day because Labor Day was built around the Southern 500. Now they've got to do away with Labor Day, I guess (laughing). Maybe they'll have to move Labor Day to November or whenever they're going to run it (laughing). I feel bad about it, but I also understand why they have to do it. Who knows, maybe moving the date will even be better for the race track, but Labor Day weekend will never be the same again."