It was one of motorsports' premier events. The Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway was considered by many people a bigger event than the Daytona 500, which modern day fans may be stunned at. Both Cale Yarborough and David Pearson took more pride in winning the Southern 500 at Darlington than they did for the Daytona 500. The Southern 500 was a true test of skill, patience and fearlessness, it was NASCAR's greatest event.
Then something changed. Bill France Jr left the sport to his son Brian France who wanted to take the sport to the next level. The younger France decided to try and make the sport more national. France's idea was to bring the historic Labor Day weekend event to the what is now Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. He did just that and the last Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Labor Day weekend was in 2003 when veteran Terry Labonte won the event. Many fans were skeptical of the move but NASCAR thought it was better for the sport. It back-fired immensely. Five years after the move NASCAR had considered moving the date from California and did just that, giving the Labor Day date to Atlanta Motor Speedway prior to the 2010 season.
Now the Labor Day Weekend event has turned into just another weekend in the eyes of race fans. Atlanta Motor Speedway is a wonderful racetrack with a lot of tire falloff and provides great racing. However, it is not considered a premier event like people look at the race weekends of Daytona, Charlotte and Indianapolis. The Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway would've definitely been in that conversation.
There has been speculation that NASCAR will revamp the schedule in the 2015 season. Included in that overhaul should be NASCAR moving the Southern 500 back to Labor Day weekend where it belongs. Many fans in the Carolinas haven't really forgiven NASCAR for moving their favorite date on the schedule. The move never sat right with some southerners and many took it as a personal shot to the location.
However, with NASCAR possibly changing the schedule next year moving the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway back to the Labor Day weekend date, where it belongs would be right. The move might not make an immediate impact on the fans but eventually the fans who felt betrayed would come back and it would help solidify a fourth premier event for NASCAR, something the sport had in the 1980's that helped make it successful.
If the Southern 500 moves back to Labor Day weekend, NASCAR would benefit greatly. It's the perfect time to move the race and many fans would be thrilled with the traditional race and it would help recreate an aura around Darlington Raceway.
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