The Southern 500, one of NASCAR’s iconic races, is set for Sunday at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Carl Edwards counts his triumph in 2015 at the egg-shaped track as perhaps the most meaningful of his 27 career victories:
Q. What made winning the Southern 500 so special to you?
A. Last year’s race was memorable for two reasons. No. 1, I won the race, that in itself, along with winning the Coke 600, those were the two biggest wins of my career. The other was that the race was really a hard-fought battle. We were two laps down at one point and fought back. We didn’t quit and made it back to the front. It wasn’t an easy win. It was a special win.
Q. What about the race is so challenging?
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A. Darlington looms so large in my mind, because before I ever went there, I over-prepared for there. Jeff Burton helped me. Mark Martin, (Greg) Biffle, all the guys at Roush Fenway who helped me when I first got there. But I like the way the place races. Mentally and physically, it’s an exhausting race. I like the challenge.
Q. Why has Darlington’s “throwback” tribute become so successful?
A. The sport moves so fast. Things change without you really knowing they changed. We all got to the track and didn’t expect it to be as big as it was. We saw all the paint schemes. We saw Kyle Larson wearing a Kyle Petty wig! It brought back all these memories from my childhood as a race fan, the videos and film I’d seen. It was a lot more fun and cool than I thought it would be.
Q. What will this year’s throwback schemes be like?
A. Everybody will step it up. Last year, it was so impressive how much work was put in. It’s almost like going to a car show, walking around and seeing it all.
Q. What makes the Southern 500 so special?
A. To me it’s a real race, it’s an event. There’s no better film than watching the old races at Darlington, seeing guys like (David) Pearson sliding under each other, slide-jobbing each other, lap after lap.
Growing up I’d never been to that part of the country. There’s a whole culture of its own. I think I can speak for all the drivers: It’s one of the biggest events of the year.”
Q. You drove a few laps with Pearson in a promotional appearance at Darlington a few years ago. What was that like?
A. I remember taking mental pictures and thinking, don’t ever forget this moment. We were goofing around and I looked at Pearson, and there he was, driving the No. 21 Wood Brothers car, arm out the window, smiling at me. I felt like I was a part of history in that moment. That was cool.