Four time Sprint Cup Champion, Jeff Gordon made a trip to Darlington Raceway on March 13 to promote ticket sales for next months Mr. Bojangles Southern 500 from NASCAR’s first super speedway. Gordon showed up at the old historic track and assisted the ticket sales office in selling AARP Drive to End Hunger ticket packages. He also handed out commemorative tickets featuring his seven victories at The Track Too Tough To Tame.
Although David Pearson holds the record for 10 victories at the egg-shaped track in South Carolina, Gordon has seven victories in total, and two in the Southern 500. His last win at this event was in 2007. Matt Kenseth will be the defending champ when they take the green flag here next month.
He also gave one lucky fan, Clea Smith of Rockingham, NC, a pace car ride around the egg-shaped oval. Smith was randomly selected from all the fans that attended the event.
“It was great to see all the fans show up today and support Darlington Raceway. It was a really fun event,” Gordon said. “Darlington [Raceway] is one of my favorite tracks. I always enjoy this place and have had a lot of success here in my career. I’m excited to come back here in a few weeks and hopefully get another Bojangles’ Southern 500 victory.”
Gordon also paid a visit to the local food bank in Darlington, The Lord Cares, where his sponsor, the AARP Foundation, made a $5,000 donation. Darlington Raceway partner, Bojangles’, also donated a truckload of non-perishable food items, which Gordon helped unload.
“We can’t thank Jeff Gordon, the AARP Foundation, Darlington Raceway and Bojangles’ enough for what they did for our food bank,” said Kevin Cauley, president of the board for The Lord Cares. “I can’t express how much his visit meant to us and the volunteers that put in so much time to make this food bank a success.”
The event brought out nearly 100 fans, several of which waited for over 12 hours, to the track to purchase the AARP Drive to End Hunger ticket package and see Gordon up close and personal. Bojangles’ brought their mobile kitchen to the track to keep the race fans full while waiting for Gordon to arrive.
Darlington epitomizes some of the problems with modern NASCAR racing. It represents the heart and soul of what stock car racing is all about. When it was decided to eliminate the Labor Day race adding more 1.5 mile boring D Ovals to the schedule the decline started.
Historically, The Southern 500 was a Labor Day tradition. Any NASCAR fan worth their salt planned their day-off around this race. I know I did for years. The Spring race at The Lady In Black was called the Rebel 400.
The first Southern 500 was the first time the Good old Boys ran on a super speedway that was paved. The stories surrounding that first race include teams not understanding tire wear on the pavement, and sending crew members into the parking lot to steal tires off of customer cars. Many fans found their cars up on blocks with no tires.
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