This is part two of a special Q&A with veteran USAC star Dave Darland, which appeared in the July issue of Sprint Car & Midget. Click here to read part one.
SC&M: Well, the follow-up of that question would be what your thoughts are that NASCAR turned into a series where teams focused so much on looking for 17- or 18-year-old kids and turning their backs on older drivers? As you said, you could still win midget races, but you likely could have also adapted to a stock car or Indy car at that age and won races as well. Not everyone that’s a fan of NASCAR is 18, and I’m sure a lot of racing fans would have liked to have seen what you could have done in NASCAR.
DARLAND: Well, I understand it, but it seemed to switch right at the wrong time for me. When I was 17 or 20 years old, they wanted the older, more experienced guys, guys with experience that took care of things. But then it switched around to where when I was an experienced 30-year-old then they wanted the kids, the young talent. Maybe some of them had a little backing to help the team too, so I was just on the opposite side of the list of qualifications.
My personality…I’m a sprint car driver. That’s what I like to do; it’s what I was cut out to do. That’s what I’m gonna do for the rest of my life, it looks like. So, I certainly enjoy driving sprint cars. I’m not sure whether I would have been the right mold or the right guy to be a NASCAR or Indy car driver. It would have been fun, I think. It would have been a good experience to be able to go on to some sort of bigger series or bigger and better things maybe, but I got an opportunity to drive both of those cars at some point, but I don’t know, I’m a sprint car driver and that’s what I’m gonna be.
SC&M: But, being a lifelong Indiana open-wheel racer, driving the Indy 500 had to have been on your bucket list.
DARLAND: Yeah, I certainly would have liked to have done the Indy 500 or, like some of the guys did, just do a little short spurt of something like that. I would have liked to have drove the Indy 500 a time or two, or 10 maybe, but as far as being a fulltime Indy car driver, I had no desire to want to try to do that. To drive some races, though, I certainly would have enjoyed.
SC&M: You’ve had a long career so far in sprint car racing and a lot has changed over the years. What do you feel has changed the most since you started?
DARLAND: The race cars themselves haven’t changed a whole lot. The horsepower has gotten…you know, 200 or more horsepower from the early ‘80s. And the tire size. And the race cars themselves have gotten a lot safer with the safer seats and some safer situations.
But, the race cars themselves haven’t changed a lot, just the surroundings. You know, the way you go about it, the driving styles have changed. The horsepower and the size of the tires, and you’ve just gotta drive these things hard these days. The style has changed a bunch since I began.