This week, NASCAR is heading to Darlington Raceway as only two races remain before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs commence. While I can’t wait for the playoffs to begin and to watch closely as the road to the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway unfolds, this week is all about a nod to NASCAR’s past.
Darlington’s Southern 500 has long been tied to Labor Day on the NASCAR calendar. As part of this tradition, the Speedway’s race week has been dedicated to the history of our sport. Year after year, teams run old paint schemes at Darlington and the industry as whole uses the week to recall some of the greatest moments in racing.
So as the buzz surrounding NASCAR’s throwback weekend has picked up and is finally here, I wanted to take the time to share some of the best moments in our track’s history. Having been a part of Homestead-Miami Speedway since ground broke in 1993, I am fortunate to have witnessed some incredible races at the track, and as the host of Ford Championship Weekend since 2002, some of NASCAR’s biggest icons have made history right here.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with our opening weekend back in 1995. After two years of hard work, we were finally ready to open our facility – then named Homestead Motorsports Complex – to the public from November 3-5 for our first ever race weekend.
It was the culmination of all the blood, sweat and tears that countless people poured into building the facility and it was the first time that our founder Ralph Sanchez’ vision was going to be on display for the world to see. I’ll never forget the atmosphere as fans rushed through the gates for the very first time to see an NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series exhibition race and a NASCAR Xfinity Series points race, which were won by Geoffrey Bodine and Dale Jarrett, respectively.
Another key part of our track’s history was the rebanking project in 2003. The rebanking really altered the future of the Speedway and implementing variable 18-20-degree banking gave us some of the most competitive racing in NASCAR. At the time, we all knew how important the construction was, but I don’t think any of us realized just how big of a lasting impact it would have on the track as the industry doesn’t bring up the track without talking about the multi-groove racing found here.
Of course, a large part of our track’s story is also tied to crowning NASCAR’s champions. Two championship races in particular really stick out to me when thinking back through the last 18 years. The first was in 2011. I’ll never forget Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards ending the season in a draw. It was such a surreal outcome as the two drivers battled all race long for position with Stewart collecting the checkered flag. It was the first time ever that the season ended in a tie and Stewart won the Cup Series title due to having more victories on the season.
The other is Jimmie Johnson in 2016 when he won his seventh MENCS championship, tying Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. for the most titles in NASCAR history. That night was such a transcendent moment in the sport and to see a record get tied that most people viewed as untouchable for a long time was truly special.
These aforementioned memories are only a few of countless pieces of history since Homestead-Miami Speedway was constructed. Truth be told, there are so many stories and moments to be shared that helped shape the Speedway into what it is today.
While the Southern 500 and NASCAR’s throwback week gave me a reason to quickly delve into some of my favorite times at Homestead-Miami Speedway, next year it will become a recurring theme as we celebrate our 25th anniversary. And as we close in on this special year and get back to our roots, I can’t wait to share many more stories with all of you about Homestead-Miami Speedway’s history and what makes it such a special place.
NASCAR ACTION THIS WEEKEND
Sunday, September 1 at 6:00 PM (ET)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway
Tune In: NBCSN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90
Saturday, August 31 at 4:00 PM (ET)
NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway
Tune In: NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90
The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series is off this weekend and will return to action Friday, September 13 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
Sep. 7-8 Ferrari Challenge
Sep. 13 Fast Lane Friday
Sep. 14-15 Sports Car Club of America (SCCA)
Sep. 21 Give Back at the Track
Sep. 21 Craft n’ Draft 5K
2019 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES
Ford EcoBoost 200 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Championship Race
Ford EcoBoost 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship Race
Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Series Championship Race
2020 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES
NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Race
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race
NASCAR Cup Series Race