Last week the UCORA Top Gun Cup Series was in action at “The Track Too Tough to Tame,” “The Lady in Black,” the oldest superspeedway in NASCAR, Darlington Raceway.
It would be the second time the series ran under the new branding of Top Gun Cup and second time the newly released 1987 Thunderbird and Monte Carlo would be used in competition by the series.
The history of Darlington Raceway goes back to 1949 when construction on the track started, the next year it held the inaugural Southern 500. Darlington has featured many historic moments through the years like Bill Elliott winning the Winston Million in 1985, Cale Yarbourogh sailing over the wall in 1965 in a race that saw Ned Jarrett win by 14 laps, or Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven battling to the line in the closest NASCAR finish in history in 2003. Even in 2020 Darlington continues to etch itself into the history books as it welcomed NASCAR back to action in May after the season was suspended due to the Covid19 pandemic.
A field of 18 cars took the green flag led by the front row of Justin Kirby and Travis Bennett. After putting up the fastest time in practice, Curtis Preston would roll off a surprising 15th with no official time turned during the qualifying session.
Polesitter Justin Kirby would use his starting position to his advantage, leading the most laps of anyone in the field showing the way for 59 circuits around Darlington Raceway. Erik Jeffers also took his fair share of leading the pack with 38 laps out front.
A total of seven caution flags would slow the field during the 146 lap event. With this being the first event to run under the new rules of no quick repairs, among other changes, the race become a story of survival. If a driver could keep it clean and avoid any melees that might break out, that would be their best shot at victory, and that is exactly what Curtis Preston did on his way to the front of the field.
Despite his aforementioned 15th starting position, Preston was able to keep his nose clean for the entirety of the race, finishing with zero incident points to his name on his way to victory lane. The speed he showed in practice paid of as he would lead only the laps he needed to, a total of six, to take the win.
In second place was Justin Kirby who fell just short of winning his second race in a row. Third place belonged to Scott Bolster who operates the UCORA Leagues on a weekly basis.
When the dust settled, only four cars were left running on the lead lap, with a total of five running altogether. However, this should be a sign of good things ahead for the Top Gun Cup Series as it continues to cultivate THE best place for throwback racing. While only the first week with new rules instated, those rules should help drivers become more cautious and respectful of each other, race lengths, among other factors that may cause incidents.
I, for one, am happy to see the series take the initiative to create a better racing product and a better environment for drivers who want to race in a throwback series to do so enjoyably.
Todd Laribee still shows the way in points after round four at Darlington. Erik Jeffers and Justin Kirby follow him in second and third. With his win, Curtis Preston moves in to the fourth spot on the points sheet. All four drivers have one win to their names heading into round five. Which brings the question up...will race five feature the fifth different winner of the season?
The next round of the UCORA Top Gun Series rolls off from the perfect throwback venue, North Wilkesboro Speedway in eight days time, next Thursday night. Practice begins at 7:50 PM EST with qualifying and racing at 8:50 PM EST and 9:00 PM EST respectively.
By Todd Rose