DARLINGTON, S.C. — Drivers will find out soon enough if racing against both the Lady in Black and Mother Nature will be too tough to tame.
If Wednesday’s 90-percent chance of rain somehow does favor NASCAR’s Cup Series to go green at 6 p.m. at Darlington Raceway, the sport’s top-tiered competitors will tackle without fans the Toyota 500 — a 500-kilometer race (310.6 miles) that will continue the revival of stock racing’s top series after a hiatus of more than two months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But if it keeps raining, Darlington will host a day-night doubleheader Thursday with the Xfinity Series’ Toyota 200 at noon. Then, at 7 p.m., Cup Series will make up Wednesday’s event.
That is, if the weathermen who forecast an 80-percent chance of rain Thursday are wrong.
Although the weather is uncertain, this much is: Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Ford and the power of Stewart-Haas Racing. While winning Sunday’s Real Heroes 400, Harvick led 159 of its laps. And more than once, after entering the pits not in the lead, Harvick’s pit crew made sure he was in front when his car left.
That car will have a familiar look Wednesday.
That’s because it will be the SAME car, and Harvick’s team will have the same pit stall.
Darlington is a demanding track, but Harvick thinks the long layoff can help him as he attempts his second race within a span of a few days.
“We have been off for nine or 10 weeks,” Harvick said after Sunday’s win. “We should be pretty fresh from the physical standpoint. For me, I've been working hard to make sure I was in as good a shape as I've been in in a long time coming back, not even knowing what the schedule was, but just wanted to be better.”
Wednesday's race won’t be as long, either.
“I think as you look at that, really the biggest thing is 300 miles for us is a short race,” said Harvick, who will start 20th Wednesday night because Sunday’s top 20 finishers are inverted. “I think as you look at the weather, being at night, it's going to be fairly cool. The 600 miles (Sunday at Charlotte) will be the one that you really have to pay attention to as far as what you do. Hydration is the key for me.”
If they race Wednesday night, redemption will be on the mind of Alex Bowman, who was Sunday’s runner-up.
“The track is going to be a little different, probably a little more rubbered up,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, the rain stays away. It's definitely going to be different. The invert and everything is going to be quite a bit different.”
And Kurt Busch, who has yet to win at Darlington but has finished among the top 10 in each of the past four Southern 500s, hopes to make Wednesday night his first win there.
“We'll see how things play out,” Busch said. “Our car was really good I think on the long run, but we have to make adjustments to battle hard for a race win.”