Craig Murto: Darlington retro is the future

A lot of hype surrounded last weekend’s Southern 500 NASCAR Cup race at Darlington, South Carolina, Raceway, and when all was said and done nobody was disappointed.

Returning the race to its original Labor Day weekend date prompted somebody to get the idea to throw a couple of retro paint schemes on a couple cars. The retro theme took off. So many cars had retro paint schemes that Dale Earnhardt Jr. commented that if you showed up without a retro scheme, it would be like arriving at a Halloween party without a costume.

TV personalities all wore decades-old clothing to go along with the retro theme. NBC brought out the old Peacock logo from the ’70s, and even Coca Cola broadcast a Mean Joe Green commercial from 1979 throughout the broadcast.

Former broadcasters Ken Squire, Ned Jarrett and Dale Jarrett called part of the race from the broadcast booth. Despite a few mistakes, they were wonderful to hear once again; I hope I can do as well when I am as old as Ken and Ned.

But the best part of the evening was the racing itself. Using the low-downforce package used at Kentucky earlier this season, and a new tire manufactured by Goodyear to fall off performance-wise after a few laps, the racing looked like the Darlington of old. By all accounts, even the best cars were a handful to drive.

And after the race, it wasn’t just winner Carl Edwards who loved the low-downforce package. The “retro racing” was popular, as it truly put more of the race in the hands of the drivers. Hopefully NASCAR realizes what a winner the race was; it’s the product the fans (and drivers) want to see on the track. Hopefully it will be adopted as the 2016 rules package and it will lead to good racing everywhere next season.

The remaining races of 2015 will be run with the 2015 rules. There just isn’t enough time to expect teams to adjust to a new set of rules for the championship rounds. But if NASCAR wants to get the fans back, what we saw during Darlington’s retro weekend had better become NASCAR’s future.

Lewis Hamilton won the F1 race at Monza. Interesting that although his left-rear tire was found to be under the mandated minimum tire pressure at the start, no penalties were assessed. In a similar situation NASCAR would have taken away points and fined the team.

The best race of the weekend was the AMA flat track motorcycle race on the Springfield Mile, aired on fanschoice.tv. Bryan Smith was third as they rounded turn 4 on the final lap, but drafted by to beat Jared Mees and Jake Johnson in a thrilling three-wide photo finish. There was a good crowd on hand at Springfield, one of the circuit’s traditional stops. Flat track racing certainly can be considered retro, as it really hasn’t changed at all in its long history, which predates World War II. The flat track riders will be at Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, Delaware, on Sept. 19, just across the border from Salisbury, Maryland. If you can’t make that event you may have to wait until they come back to Hagerstown, Maryland, next year.

Hagerstown Speedway announced that Andy Anderson and Marvin Winters are co-champions of the Late Model division. No word as to why there was not a tiebreaker, but congratulations to them; a Hagerstown championship is a big deal. You still have plenty of weekends through October to see good racing at Hagerstown, so be sure to check their schedule at hagerstownspeedway.com.

Mike Ganoe won the first Late Model feature of his career at Shenandoah Speedway. The track returns to action with Virginia Sprint Cars and Late Models featured on Sept. 26, and will hold its final race of the year on Oct. 10.

Allan Brannon won the Super Late Model feature last weekend at Winchester Speedway. The track will hold racing events through September, with the final event of the year the annual Winchester 200 on Oct. 9-10.

And let’s not forget the road course we have in nearby Summit Point, West Virginia. On Oct. 3-4, Summit Point will host the SCCA Mid-Atlantic Road Racing Series for its final event at the track this season. Campi9ng is allowed, and there’s nothing like waking up to the sound of sports cars on track. Visit summitpoint-raceway.com for information.