Today’s tire test drew several hundred fans to the track to see the new Gen-6 car, many which came from as far as Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
“We were running some really fast times today. I think you’ll see a good possibility of the qualifying record being broken here at Darlington in May,” Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion said during the lunch break. “I love this race track and being able to test out here today and see how well the new car handled is great for our team and Goodyear.”
With its annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekend just under 100 days away, Darlington is looking forward to being just one of only two tracks in the sport to claim it has seen every generational style of race car compete on its oval since its inaugural season in 1950. Martinsville Speedway is the other.
The first generation of race cars that were introduced in NASCAR were from 1948-1966, which featured Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Hudson, Ford and Studebaker to name a few.
Many of these early models, like the famed Hudson Hornet which won the Southern 500 at Darlington in 1951 and 1952, competed at various other tracks during the early 1950’s but most are not in use on the current NASCAR schedule today and tracks such as Daytona and Charlotte were raced on the beach and on dirt, respectively. Other Generation 1 cars, like the 1956 Ford Convertible, made its last appearance in NASCAR competition at Darlington in 1962.
Darlington and Martinsville are the only two tracks still around today that hosted the original models of Generation 1.
“It’s amazing that there are only two tracks in NASCAR today that have hosted every generation of race car since 1949,” Darlington President Chris Browning said. “Darlington takes great pride in knowing that we are one of two facilities around today that hosted the first Generation 1 models back then and will now be racing the Gen-6 car in 2013. We’ve seen every make and model and every great NASCAR driver throughout the last 60-plus years of stock car racing!”
Through the other Generations, some notable cars made history in NASCAR at Darlington. Here are a few highlights:
Generation 2 (1967-1980)
Richard Petty’s 1967 Plymouth won both races at Darlington that year. It was the first time in track history that a driver swept both races at Darlington in the same year. With his wins that year, he passed his father, Lee, as the all-time winningest driver in NASCAR.
Generation 3 (1981-1991)
Bill Elliott won the Winston Million, a million-dollar prize given to a driver who won three of the four “crown jewels” of racing, in his Ford Thunderbird in 1985. Elliott won the Winston Million after winning at Daytona, Talladega and the Southern 500 at Darlington that year.
Generation 4 (1992-2006)
Ricky Craven piloted his Pontiac Grand Prix to the closest finish in NASCAR history with a .002 margin of victory over Kurt Busch in the March 2003 event at Darlington. It was Pontiac’s final victory at the track Too Tough To Tame.
Generation 5-COT (2007-2012)
Jimmie Johnson’s victory in the 2012 Bojangles’ Southern 500 gave owner Rick Hendrick his 200th career victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. It was the last race for the COT and Chevy Impala car at Darlington.
Generation 6 or Gen-6 (2013-)
Will the 2013 Chevy SS, Ford Fusion or Toyota Camry win the famed Bojangles’ Southern 500? We’ll see on May 11.
“These are just a few of the many great racing memories that put Darlington on the map,” Browning said. “It’s amazing to think about all the different manufacturers that raced at Darlington and how each one has impacted our sport, from the 1950 Plymouth driven by Johnny Mantz to the 2012 Chevy Impala driven by Jimmie Johnson in 2012. Many manufacturers have had success at the Lady in Black.”
Below are the career manufacturer wins at Darlington since 1950 with the first and last winners listed, the year they won and the generation of car that was used)
Manufacturer Wins at Darlington Raceway (1950-2012)
Chevrolet – 40
First Win – Herb Thomas (1955, Generation 1)
Last Win – Jimmie Johnson (2012, Generation 5)
Ford – 28
First Win– Curtis Turner (1956, Generation 1)
Last Win – Greg Biffle (2006, Generation 4)
Mercury – 10
First Win – Darel Dieringer (1966, Generation 1)
Last Win – David Pearson (1977, Generation 2)
Oldsmobile – 6
First Win – Fonty Flock (1952, Generation 1)
Last Win – Harry Gant (1991, Generation 3)
Dodge – 5
First Win – Buck Baker (1964, Generation 1)
Last Win – Sterling Marlin (2002, Generation 4)
Pontiac – 5
First Win – Buck Baker (1960, Generation 1)
Last Win – Ricky Craven (2003, Generation 4)
Buick – 4
First Win – Darrell Waltrip (1981, Generation 3)
Last Win – Bobby Allison (1983, Generation 3)
Plymouth – 4
First Win – Johnny Mantz (1950, Generation 1 in the Inaugural Southern 500)
Last Win – Richard Petty (1967, Generation 2)
Hudson – 3
First Win – Herb Thomas (1951, Generation 1)
Last Win – Herb Thomas (1954, Generation 1)
AMC – 2
First Win – Bobby Allison (1975, Generation 2, Rebel 500)
Last Win – Bobby Allison (1975, Generation 2, Southern 500)
Toyota – 2
First Win – Kyle Busch (2008, Generation 5)
Last Win – Denny Hamlin (2010, Generation 5)