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What’s not to like about Darlington?

It's not Las Vegas — far from it.

But if NASCAR is serious about returning to its roots, those roots aren't hard to find. They grow deep at Darlington.

For 51 weeks a year, Darlington and nearby Florence, are little more than places to change highways on the way to Myrtle Beach.

Even during race week, which currently ends with the Southern 500 on the eve of Mothers Day, there's not a lot to do in Darlington. Fans who make the annual pilgrimage to the asymmetrical, egg-shaped track, however, are there for a singular purpose — to watch some of the best racing NASCAR has to offer.

Darlington is a place that gets under a driver's skin. A frustrated Kyle Petty once suggested filling the track with water and stocking it with bass.

“Well, it's not one of my top five (favourites) — I can promise you that,” Clint Bowyer said diplomatically the day before the race.

Today's Darlington, mind you, isn't the same track that bullied and befuddled drivers 30 or 40 years ago. Repaved in time for last year's race, the surface is far kinder to tyres than it used to be, as was evidenced by the frequency of two-tyre and fuel-only calls in the pits on Saturday night.

Ultimately, Mark Martin won the race by staying out on old tyres — an impossibility in the old days, when the abrasive asphalt would chew the 'good' off the tyres in fewer than ten laps.

The frontstretch is now the backstretch, and pit road is now on the side of the racetrack farthest from Highway 151. Much has changed over the years at the Lady in Black, but the soul of the place is still there.

There's a saying in professional golf that the difficulty of a US Open set-up identifies the best players in the world. Similarly, the crucible of Darlington identifies the best drivers. Scan the list of winners at 'The Track Too Tough To Tame', and you'll find the absolute cream of the sport.

And if you don't think racing at Darlington is as intense as ever, just ask Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

“This is so tough,” Johnson said Saturday after trailing Martin to the finish line. “The speeds are so high. Track position's everything. Lapped cars, even if they want to get out of the way, they can't, there's no room to. They get frustrated and probably warned by NASCAR for going too slow. They quit laying over.



Related Pictures

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Mark Martin wins at Darlington [Pic credit: Getty for NASCAR]
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Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s 75th Anniversary Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 3, 2016 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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Very well said. It is a shame that all of the "new" tracks that were built in the 90's didn't look at places like Darlington, Richmond, or Bristol. Those three tracks, not Charlotte or Michigan, show what NASCAR racing should be.



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