Track Talk: Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington

It may not be 1998, but William Byron will drive a fan favorite for Sunday night's Bojangles' Southern 500.

It may not be 1998, but William Byron will drive a fan favorite for Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500.

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

This weekend, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Christina Bowman, Cody ShoppeJose Acero Jr, and Katie Copple share their memories about soon-to-be retirees Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler and talk about their favorite #NASCARThrowback paint schemes for Darlington!

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Question 1
Formerly teammates in Cup, Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler will ride into the sunset after this season.

Formerly teammates in Cup, Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler will ride into the sunset after this season.

Recently, Elliott Sadler and Kasey Kahne announced their retirement from full-time NASCAR racing following this season.  What were each driver’s greatest contributions? Would you say their retirements coincide with NASCAR going younger or more attributed to the grinding schedule?

Acero :  Sad to see these two great drivers leave the sport. I believe it’s the hustle of the schedule that is sidelining Sadler and the fact that these young guns are taking the sport by the reigns. I mean, he still has a few good years in him.

Kahne was the driver that started bringing young fans into the sport especially girls because of his looks. (Don’t you dare say no.) It was quite funny asking girls at the track why they rooted for Kahne and them responding “he is so cute,” so yeah. It would be great to see Sadler as a pit reporter alongside his brother. I can see Kahne taking a role in a race team as a mentor or somewhere along those lines.

Bowman :  Elliott Sadler is just such an emotional and relatable person. Beyond his undeniable talent, I think that his personality and unique charm will be his legacy. Hopefully he does not leave the sport entirely, I’d love to see him stay and maybe get into the broadcast side as some of the more recent retirees have.

Kasey Kahne came and rocked NASCAR like a hurricane! Sorry, I couldn’t help but reference the Allstate commercials. Kahne drew in a lot of young fans when he came up to the Cup series and one could argue that he brought in a lot of women too.

I think both of their retirements say more about the lack of opportunity for veteran drivers than anything. I don’t think it’s so much that younger drivers have more talent, I think it’s that they are more marketable.  

Copple :  Both Sadler and Kahne are just all around great guys, reliable drivers, and teammates people could count on. While they never made it to the lever of Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon, they both made a lasting mark on NASCAR and helped fuel a younger generation. Both say their reason for leaving is family, and while that may be the case, I also think part of it is lack of sponsorship in this sport. Even the veterans who have had longtime sponsors are struggling to find funding for 2019. I hope this isn’t the very last time we will see either of them on track.

Hobbs :  To see these great men retiring from the sport is a tale of two stories, but both share common aspects. While Sadler has been around longer than Kahne, both are leaving for family. Family seems to be the reason most men are retiring these days. We could also tip the hat towards these men starting their careers at a younger age than those of the past, and sure, the incredibly long season does not hurt as another reason to step aside. Even with their week off thrown in a few times a year, it is a long season of much travel.

Both men brought their personalities to the sport; Sadler very extroverted and Kahen a bit more introverted. They both drove their hearts out each season, and they both brought different fan bases to the sport. For Sadler, he rose to the Cup level and then went back to the Xfinity level, and I think that helped bring more attention to the Xfinity series because people love Elliott Sadler. I think he did a lot of good for them.

Hull :  Both are two of the nicest drivers in NASCAR. Elliott Sadler has not only had a successful career, but was really a fun participant of ‘Trackside Live’ back in the day. Kasey Kahne has always been a favorite amongst fans, especially the ladies. He has also had a long and successful career. Now it’s time for them both to focus on their families.

Lucas : Elliott “Test Dummy” Sadler has had a wild and crazy career on and off the track! Remember when he stage dived into the audience for a SPEED Trackside Live taping in downtown Charlotte? I do, heck, I was there in person for it! Sadler has had some of the most epic crashes in NASCAR history. Without his “burnt into my mind forever” flip at Talladega in 2003, to his big impact at Pocono 2010, he has been the poster child for the new safety initiatives with the previous car incarnations. Funny, witty, and a fan favorite, I will truly miss Elliott at the race track.

Kasey Kahne was the original Chase Elliott for NASCAR. The crazy commercials from Allstate with the women oohing and eye-googling over him will live (infamously) forever in my head! Kahne came in hot with that epic finale at The Rock against Kenseth, and then again, against coincidently, Sadler at Texas later that spring. My personal favorite years of his would be the one-off season at Team Red Bull in 2011. I met him and Brian Vickers for their annual fan day during 600 Race Week in Charlotte. In fact, I could write a page just alone on those epic days, but we’ll save that for another day!

I think Sadler wants to spend more time with his young family and Kahne wants a change of pace and scenery. I also think Sadler has a good chance to be the leading Little League baseball coach for Emporia, VA youth sports. That’s really cool and very rewarding in the long run. Will Kahne ever come back and race in NASCAR? I think he will, especially in either the Trucks or Xfinity series.    

Shoppe :  When I think of these two guys, the first thing that comes to mind was the 2004 spring Texas race where the two battled door to door for the win that day.

For Kasey Kahne, it was the beginning of a career of almosts. Kahne was a contender for wins from day one, but always seemed to be one step away from being a constant front runner.

For Elliott Sadler, I will remember him as such a fan friendly personality that arguably should be a multiple time XFINITY champ. Both will leave the track at Homestead greatly missed, two of the good guys for sure, and I wish them the best with their families!

Question 2
Keselowski sports the "Metal Man" Mega Man 2 Miller colors at Darlington.

Keselowski sports the “Metal Man” Mega Man 2 Miller colors at Darlington.

Since 2015, Darlington Raceway has been the official host of NASCAR’s throwback weekend.  Given the released paint schemes as of press time, what is your favorite throwback and why?

Acero :  I love that of Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 team because it reminds me of my grandpa drinking his MGD after a hard days work!

Bowman : I am loving the No. 2 Miller throwback, just because the colors and the style remind me of the old school days! I’m also really feeling Ricky’s John Deere paint scheme because…. well… it’s John Deere and who doesn’t love a little country in racing?

Copple :  I’m still a fairly “new” fan so every throwback paint scheme is a favorite! The designs of the cars, even a decade ago, were so different and it’s so great to see them back, even for just one race! Plus, Darlington is the perfect track to host this.

Hobbs :  I cannot pick a favorite! I love the Nos. 6, 9, 18, 24, 43, and 48 though! But, if I was forced to pick one of these, as a Gordon fan, I have to go with the Rainbow Warrior! Though, calling it a throwback scheme makes me feel old…

Hull :  It’s really hard to pick a favorite because they are all pretty cool. The homage that Joey Logano is paying to Steve Park is pretty cool. Then Matt Dibenedetto’s tribute to Jeff Burton’s Exide car is pretty rad as well!

Lucas : For Cup, man that is a hard one to pick. There are so many cool schemes that I can remember from my childhood! I think the one that has stuck out the most to me has been Kurt Busch’s. That Rubbermaid scheme in 2003 was so weird that it was cool! What would’ve been ironic is if the No. 41 had run a Jimmy Spencer throwback! Remember that rivalry anyone?

For XFINITY, I’m playing the homer card. Brandon Brown and his majestic Dick Trickle tribute car featuring my alma mater Coastal Carolina University. It’s slick, gritty, and a beautiful work. Finally, we’ve incorporated the bronze color into a promotion. C-I-N-O all the way to victory lane!

Shoppe :  They are all so awesome! My personal favorites are those that take me back to when I started watching as a kid in the early 2000’s. Kurt Busch’s throwback to himself with his “Rubbermaid” ford and Ryan Blaney’s tribute to his father, Dave make up ⅔’s of the top three on that unforgettable 2003 Darlington finish!

There’s nothing quite like #NASCARThrowback weekend as this weekend honors seven decades of NASCAR action!  Before moving to the present with our picks, let’s go back two weekends ago at Bristol!
"That Jones Boy" helped a trio of TPF panelists.

“That Jones Boy” helped a trio of TPF panelists.

Meanwhile, it's all about playoff points.

Meanwhile, it’s all about playoff points.

Well, it’s totally time for winning picks on Track Talk.  Let’s get to it by revealing those potential contenders for Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington!
Six different race picks for Darlington? This could be fun!

Six different race picks for Darlington? This could be fun!

Tiongson :  Martin Truex Jr won’t join the throwback party, but he’s got to be my favorite for Sunday night.  In odd years since the arrival of crew chief Cole Pearn, he at least finishes inside the top-five. How’d he fare in 2016? Exactly, so I’m thinking it’s a second Southern 500 win and third overall for the No. 78 team.

TPF Stats :  Why the stats Gods love Erik Jones lately, who knows (actually, I do!), but watch this kid this weekend!

Bowman :  Got good feels about Ryan Blaney.

Hull :  Blaney has this race in the bag!

Copple :  I’m going to go out on a very large limb and say Jimmie Johnson.

Acero :  I actually lost count of how many drivers I have chosen, so I have to pick a random driver and that is ol’ seven-time Jimmie Johnson!

Hobbs :  Denny Hamlin has a good streak going with the Lady In Black; I hope it continues!

Shoppe :  Denny Hamlin will one more race in his old No. 11 “Chesterfield Trailer Hitch Mini Stock.”

Lucas :  I’m tasting the rainbow and some chicken grease this Labor Day weekend with Kyle Busch licking his fingers clean from the great taste of Skittles, and equally, if not better tasting Bojangles chicken ‘n biscuits!

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday night’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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