NASCAR Race Tracks: Darlington Raceway

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vn508DAR_darlington_418This week the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Darlington Raceway in Darlington County, SC. NASCAR racing began here at Darlington in 1950. It’s one of the oldest and most historic tracks in the Series.

The track is 1.366 miles around, and is unique in it’s shape. It’s not just an oval, it’s an “egg-shaped” oval. When they were building the track, the owner, Mr. Ramsey, said they could build on the land as long as they didn’t bother the pond on the land. The result was what looked like an egg. Wider on the bottom to accommodate the pond.

The drivers must race the track, not each other. Driver and car must be hooked up  well to race this track. Darlington is known by a couple of names. She is “The Lady In Black”. That is, most drivers end up scraping the wall and leaving a black mark on the wall. At Darlington, the drivers earn their “Darlington stripe”. She is also “The Track Too Tough To Tame”. I don’t know if there was ever a winner who had not gotten into the wall at some point during the race.

Darlington is located in the sand hills. And no matter how hard track officials try to blow away the sand, it still comes back to the top of the track. And if the driver gets a little too close to the wall, the sand makes them slide right into the wall.

Darlington Raceway was repaved last year. That made it smoother and faster. In fact, last year 41 out of the 43 cars that qualified for the race beat the old track record. Turns one and two are much wider than turns three and four. And they’re going so fast and using all the track that it is no wonder that they get into the wall.

In 1950 they started the Southern 500. And it was one of the most prestigious races on the curcuit. The race was run on Labor Day weekend. In 1957 NASCAR started racing at Darlington in the Spring also. Over the years they changed the length of the race from 300 miles to 400 miles, to 500 miles, back to 400 miles and now is back to 500 miles.

2004 was the last time the Southern 500 was run. NASCAR gave the Labor Day weekend date to California (now Auto Club Speedway). Something about California being a better market! And now they race at Darlington on Saturday before Mothers Day. That didn’t go over well with fans. The Southern 500 was too great a race to just leave it behind. So this year NASCAR brought back the Southern 500 to Darlington Raceway.

I look forward to races at Darlington.  And wish there were two races at this track. But I guess I’ll have to take what I can get. In the first practice 12 drivers got into the wall. And two, 82 rookie Scott Speed and 00 David Reutimann will have to get into their back-up cars for the second practice session.

Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. Talk to you after the race.

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