September 3, 2018 / 12:13 AM / in a month

NASCAR notebook: Some of Darlington's hottest aren't racing

DARLINGTON, S.C. - Car buffs will get a feast for their eyes during the parade laps for Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Sep 2, 2018; Darlington, SC, USA; A rainbow over turns one and two during a weather delay prior to the start of the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Six different Chevrolet Camaros, driven by six NASCAR luminaries — all with connections to the Track Too Tough to Tame — will pace the field.

NASCAR Hall of fame car owner Richard Childress, himself a former driver, will pace the field in his own 1969 Camaro. He’ll be joined on track by NASCAR Hall of Fame members Ron Hornday Jr. and Ray Evernham, as well as former Darlington winners Jeff Burton, Ward Burton and Ricky Craven, all driving Camaros of different vintages, from 1981 to 2017.

“I’m looking forward to getting back on a racetrack with my 1969 Camaro,” Childress said. “I ran a Camaro in the Talladega 500 in 1969 when the track was opened, so it seems fitting for me to be a part of Chevy’s Camaro parade laps.

“Darlington’s throwback weekend is really special for our fans and a good way to remember our heritage. I’m honored to share the track with this group, I just hope they make sure my Camaro is out front!”

Craven was the winner of the closest finish in Darlington history, beating Kurt Busch to the finish line by .002 seconds in 2003.

“I’m excited to celebrate what has become my favorite weekend — throwback weekend at Darlington,” said Craven, who is driving a 1993 Camaro owned by Jim Ramsey of Darlington. “This year’s event has become more significant for several reasons.

“It’s been 15 years since my Southern 500 win in 2003, coupled with the fact that I have been asked by Chevrolet to drive one of the pace cars representing the six generations of Camaro during the Seven Decades of Darlington celebration.

“If it had not been for the support of Chevrolet early on in my career and life, I would not have met my goals and realized my dreams. For that, I will always be very grateful.”

HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS SHOWS UPTICK IN SPEED AT DARLINGTON

The first round of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying looked like old times for Hendrick Motorsports.

Led by Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender William Byron, Hendrick drivers posted the second- through fifth-fastest laps in the opening round. Alex Bowman topped the speed chart in the second round before claiming the fourth starting spot in the final session.

Byron, Bowman and Chase Elliott all advanced to the final 12, with Byron and Elliott qualifying 10th and 1tth, respectively for Sunday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.

“The biggest thing I have seen this weekend is just an increase in speed, and I feel like it’s really good to have that,” Byron said after the time trials. “We kind of went both sides of the balance throughout qualifying, but I feel like ultimately, towards the end, we kind of figured out what we needed the most, which was good.

“I feel like, as we keep going towards (the race), just understanding the balance each run and trying to manage the lap time the best is going to be really important. It’s good to start in the top 10 and I’m excited for it.”

It wasn’t all rosy news for Hendrick. After recording the fifth-fastest lap in the first round, seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson scraped the wall on his second-round lap and could do no better than 20th. Subsequent unapproved adjustments to the no. 48 Chevrolet relegated Johnson to a back-of-the field start on Sunday.

MISFORTUNE CONTINUES TO FOLLOW NO. 60 ROUSH FENWAY FORD

Fighting for a spot in the 12-driver NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, Austin Cindric can feel a sense of relief after Saturday’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway — he won’t have to drive the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford in the final two regular-season races.

Cindric was the innocent victim of a tap from Ryan Truex on the second lap of Saturday’s race, and the resulting wreck knocked him out of the event in 40th place. The early exit was Cindric’s fourth DNF in the No. 60 ride he shares with Chase Briscoe and Ty Majeski.

After climbing from the car, Cindric was close to tears.

“I get turned and plug the fence two laps into the race,” Cindric said. “I’m really frustrated about that. I’m frustrated that this is my last race in the 60 car.”

Then again, given the ill-fortune he has endured in the ride, Cindric might consider himself lucky to be driving Team Penske cars as he tries to preserve his 11th-place position in the series standings at Indianapolis and Las Vegas.

—By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

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