07 May The Track Too Tough to Tame – Darlington Raceway
This weekend Clint Bowyer will be heading to South Carolina to race at one of NASCAR’s oldest tracks…Darlington Raceway! In addition to being a historic track, The Lady in Black also has many other unique features that make the race thrilling for fans and drivers, including the risk of the Darlington Stripe. Let us fill you in with a little raceway history before you tune in to Saturday’s race.
Did you know Darlington Raceway’s roots date back to 1949? What would become Darlington Raceway started as an old cotton field in rural Darlington, South Carolina. At the time NASCAR was still in its infancy, so when local businessman Harold Brasington sought to turn the land into a race track, many locals thought he was insane. Though he had little support, Brasington set out in the fall of 1949 to turn the old cotton field into a 1 ¼ mile raceway. Brasington intended for the track to be a true oval, but NASCAR fans know that is not how the raceway turned out. During construction, the track’s design had to be modified per the landowner’s request. Turns 3 and 4 were narrowed because landowner Sherman Ramsey didn’t want his nearby minnow pond to be disturbed. After about a year of construction the track was completed and fans overflowed the stands for the first race on Labor Day, 1950.
Because of Ramsey’s request, Darlington has become famous for its unique egg-shaped design and has become one of the most respected grounds in NASCAR history. Strangely, getting a stripe from the wall is how a driver earns his respect for the track, and is deemed the Darlington Stripe. At most tracks, the fastest line is against the white line but at Darlington it’s the opposite, which is where the Darlington Stripe comes in. In order to get a fast lap that could put them at the front of the pack, drivers take the upper line, putting them at risk of scraping up the right door of their car. The reward is what makes the risk worth it, which is why the Darlington Stripe is the only time a driver doesn’t mind seeing damage to their car.
Another aspect of the Darlington Raceway NASCAR fans will enjoy is the Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum. From old cars to contemporary cars, the museum’s exhibits celebrate the track’s rich, 60+ year history. Racing fans can even see Richard Petty’s 1967 Plymouth, a car that won him 10 races that year as well as Darrell Waltrip’s 1991 Chevy Lumina, the car that rolled eight times in the Pepsi 400 which was one of the most fearsome crashes in stock car history. Visitors can also check out the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame, where numerous photos, memorabilia and interactive exhibits showcase NASCAR and its personalities.
Although it may be one of the oldest tracks in NASCAR, updates and renovations to the facility make races at Darlington ones that both fans and drivers love to attend. While the walls of Darlington Raceway are painted a clean, crisp white now, they sure won’t be white after Saturday’s race! We’re wishing Clint Bowyer the best of luck as they take on the Lady in Black this weekend!