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KERRY THARP: Labor Day race weekend at Darlington Raceway three weeks away
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Darlington Raceway Commentary

KERRY THARP: Labor Day race weekend at Darlington Raceway three weeks away

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DARLINGTON, S.C. — As the days of summer continue to fly by, we are just three weeks away from one of the biggest and most exciting sporting events in the state of South Carolina, as NASCAR comes to Darlington Raceway on Sept. 4-5. Highlighted by the 72nd running of the Cook Out Southern 500, Darlington Raceway Labor Day Race Weekend presented by the South Carolina Education Lottery will feature a triple header of NASCAR racing action. The Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race takes the green flag on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (NBCSN).

Sunday features two playoff races for the price of one ticket. The In It To Win It 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the second race in that series’ playoffs, gets things started at 1:30 p.m. (FS1). The main event – the Cook Out Southern 500—is the leadoff race in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and follows at 6 p.m. on NBCSN. Tickets are available for purchase by calling 866-459-7223 or visiting www.darlingtonraceway.com.

Following a two-week break due to NBC’s coverage of the Summer Olympics, NASCAR returned to on-track action last weekend at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York. Kyle Larson continued to show that he is a legitimate championship contender by winning for the fifth time this season, outlasting defending series champion Chase Elliott to win the Cup race. Young phenom Ty Gibbs won for the third time this season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday, while Austin Hill came home the winner in the rain-shortened Camping World Truck Series race also on Saturday.

With three races left in the regular season Cup schedule, anticipation continues to build on what the 16-driver Cup Series playoff field will look like. We know that most of the field is already set, as Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Elliott, William Byron, Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell and Aric Almirola all have visited Victory Lane at least one time this season. Surprising as it may seem, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are still winless this year, but appear to have accumulated enough points to make the field. That could change; however, if we see three new winners over the next three races, beginning this week with the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Heading into this weekend’s action, Tyler Reddick currently holds down the 16th and final playoff spot, with a precarious 15-point margin over his Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon. Races at Michigan International Speedway and Daytona International Speedway lead up to the Labor Day weekend event at Darlington. Drivers such as Dillon. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Bubba Wallace, and Matt DiBenedetto, all currently outside the top 16 in the standings, have shown their prowess at Daytona, with Dillon and Stenhouse both previously securing wins at The World Center of Racing. You could see a real shakeup in the playoff picture if one of those drivers took home the checkered flag over the next three weeks. With Sunday being the first test on the Indy Road Course for the Cup Series drivers, things could really get interesting if we have a surprise winner emerge at the Brickyard.

Darlington is excited about welcoming back its fans to the race track next month. It’s been two full years – September of 2019 – since we’ve been able to fully open up our grandstands and camping areas. We are extremely appreciative for our fans’ patience, loyalty and support during these times. We want to put on the best possible “show” that we can and our goal is to provide an entertaining and safe weekend for you, your loved ones and friends.

Pre-event activities will actually begin next Saturday, Aug. 21, as we host a Classic Car Show and Track Laps for Charity. Darlington will open its gates at 8 a.m. for the Classic Car Show and 11 a.m. for Track Laps for Charity. Fans will enter the track through the Gate 39A tunnel entrance off of Highway 151. The car show will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the track laps event will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Car owners can enter their favorite vintage or new cars in the Classic Car Show. Each car entry will receive track laps following Track Laps for Charity, a dash plaque and a ticket to the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday, Sept. 4. First-place trophies will be awarded in 25 different categories. Car owners can pre-register for the Classic Car Show online for $30 or on the day of the event for $40. The first 50 registrants will get a free photo with their car in Ruoff Mortgage Victory Lane. To register in advance or learn more about the Classic Car Show, visit www.darlingtonraceway.com/events/classiccarshow.

For a donation of $20 per car, fans will drive three laps around the track Too Tough to Tame to support Blessings in a Backpack and Darlington Shares. This is the third Track Laps for Charity event of the year as Darlington Raceway continues to partner with organizations making a difference in communities. As a leader in the movement to end childhood hunger, Blessings in a Backpack mobilizes communities, individuals, and resources to provide food on the weekends for school-aged children across the United States who might otherwise go hungry. With over 13 million children experiencing food insecurity, one in six children may be struggling with access to food. To learn more about Blessings in a Backpack and get involved in your community, visit www.blessingsinabackpack.org. For more information on Track Laps for Charity, visit www.darlingtonraceway.com/tracklaps.

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