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Curator's Corner / Historic Moments

Mother’s Day Racing Returns

Jeff Gordon won big at Darlington the last time the NASCAR premier series raced on Mother’s Day.

It’s Throwback Weekend at historic Darlington Raceway, one of NASCAR’s oldest tracks on the circuit.

And with this year’s Throwback Weekend, comes a schedule throwback: For the first time since 2007, the premier series will race on Mother’s Day, which this year falls on May 9. All three of NASCAR’s National Series will be in action at Darlington, with the main event being the Darlington 400 on Mother’s Day.

Heavy rain at Darlington Raceway forced NASCAR to postpone the 2007 Dodge Avenger 500 and run it on Mother’s Day. Photo courtesy of Marc Serota/Getty Images

In its first three decades, NASCAR raced on Mother’s Day sporadically, ending the practice after the 1986 running of The Winston, NASCAR’s annual all-star race, drew a paltry crowd of only about 3,000 fans to Atlanta Motor Speedway.

That all changed at Darlington in 2007, but not by design.

Once the racing began, the action was hot and heavy at historic Darlington Raceway. Photo courtesy of Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

The 2007 Dodge Avenger 500 was scheduled to run on Saturday night, May 12, but persistent rains forced its postponement until May 13, which was Mother’s Day.

And so they raced on Mother’s Day.

Second-year driver Denny Hamlin had the car to beat, his Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet – this was JGR’s last year before switching to Toyotas – leading 179 of 367 laps around the treacherous 1.367-mile Darlington oval en route to a second-place finish.

Jeff Gordon’s victory in the 2007 Dodge Avenger 500 at Darlington Raceway was the last premier series race run on Mother’s Day. Photo courtesy of Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

But at the end of the race, it was the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets of Jeff Gordon (2019) and Jimmie Johnson out front. Johnson led from Lap 338 to Lap 345, but a late-race debris caution allowed Gordon to stay out and pick up his first lead of the day, a lead he would hold onto for the final 22 laps of the race to claim the $323,286 first place share of the purse.

It was not easy, though, as Gordon’s Hendrick’s Motorsports Chevrolet was overheating and spewing out heavy plumes of steams in the closing laps.

“We endured major overheating issues late in the race due to the radiator plugging up with tire rubber,” said Gordon. “When a late-race caution came out, we made the tough decision to stay out because we were terrified the engine would blow up if we stopped on pit road. Everyone thought we were a sitting duck on old tires, but somehow, we managed to stay out front and grab the checkered flag.”

At Darlington Raceway, Jeff Gordon went to Victory Lane for the third time in four races. Photo courtesy of Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

As it turns out, Gordon and crew chief Steve Letarte made the right decision. “The timing couldn’t have been more perfect because the radiator exploded as soon as I parked it in Victory Lane,” said Gordon. “We must have been living right that week.”

The victory was the fourth in a row for Hendrick Motorsports and the team’s eighth in nine races.

Gordon’s mother, Carol Bickford, was at the track on Saturday but left when the race was rained out, so she missed her son’s third victory of 2007 and 78thof his career. Gordon left the historic race track 231 points ahead of teammate Johnson.

quote icon

The radiator exploded as soon as I parked it in Victory Lane.

— Jeff Gordon

An interesting footnote: The top 12 finishers all drove for Hall of Fame team owners:

Race-winner Gordon and third-place Johnson drove for Rick Hendrick (2017).

Runner-up Hamlin and sixth-place Tony Stewart (2020) were in cars fielded by Joe Gibbs (2020).

Roger Penske (2019) owned the entries of fourth-place Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch, who ended the afternoon 12th.

Richard Childress (2017) drivers Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton finished ninth and 10threspectively.

The top finishing Fords belonged to Jack Roush (2019), as Carl Edwards was fifth and Matt Kenseth seventh.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8) earned a top-10 finish in his Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet. Photo courtesy of Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Last but not least, Dale Earnhardt Inc., the team founded by Dale Earnhardt (2010), saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2021) come hone eighth and Martin Truex Jr. 11th.

“Our Darlington win in May 2007 was one of my most memorable not only because the race was postponed to and run on Mother’s Day, but because such a crazy set of circumstances put us in Victory Lane,” said Gordon. “That’s one race I will never forget, and it was even more special to have it all come together on Mother’s Day.”

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Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.

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