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Darlington Should Get a Second Date

Darlington Speedway Should Have Another Race Date

No matter what happens at Darlington, the Track Too Tough to Tame invariably becomes the Track That Leaves You Wanting More.

Ask any driver or crew chief in the Sprint Cup garage where they'd most like to watch a race from the grandstands, and it's a dead heat between the Daytona 500 and Darlington. The same goes for the core fans of the sport.

The egg-shaped track in the middle of the South Carolina sandhills presents a unique set of variables and more action in 500 miles than you're likely to see in five years at Pocono or Fontana. Nothing against those tracks—they just don't produce the sort of always-on-the-edge racing that's second nature to the Lady in Black.

Just ask driver Jeff Burton, who fought from 18th place to finish eighth in Saturday night's Showtime Southern 500 after suffering pit-road penalty late in the race.

“It has a special meaning to me,” Burton said of the 1.366-mile track, which owes its asymmetrical shape to landowner Sherman Ramsey's desire not to disturb a minnow pond at the west end of the property during the construction that began in 1949. “I think that the history of our sport is right here. The thought that someone would build this racetrack, the shape they built it, the size they built it at the time that they built it was pretty phenomenal.

“You go back and watch video. It's narrow now, but it was really narrow then. You watch that old video, and it's just really cool to be here. To me, it's the most historic weekend of the year. That makes it special.”

In 2003, NASCAR took one of its most iconic races—the Southern 500 run on Labor Day weekend at Darlington—and turned it into a nondescript event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Seven years later, it's time for NASCAR to admit its mistake and restore Darlington to the stature its deserves as the sport's oldest—and arguably most exciting—superspeedway.

Kansas Speedway is earmarked for a second Cup date, likely in 2011, as part of a casino development contract awarded to partners International Speedway Corporation, which operates 12 Cup tracks, and Penn National Gaming. Paving the way for the approval from the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board was ISC's promise to petition NASCAR for a second Kansas date.

The highest probability is that Auto Club Speedway will lose one of its two dates to Kansas. As NASCAR constructs its schedule for 2011 and beyond, however, the sanctioning body should consider returning a pivotal race to one of its most historic venues.

Since the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup debuted in 2004, the September race that finalized the field for NASCAR's playoff has been held at Richmond. Nothing against the three-quarter-mile short track, and not to suggest that Richmond should lose a date—which it absolutely should not—but Darlington might be a better choice for that crucial race.

Jimmie Johnson's wrecked car and Tony Stewart's lack of speed notwithstanding, Saturday night's race, capped by a heroic drive from Denny Hamlin, went a long way toward identifying the real wheel men in the series.


Tagged as: Sprint , Sprint Cup

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Darlington Speedway
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, finishes in ninth place racing with Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS who finishes in eleventh place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet SS, finishes in eighth place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 TaxAct Chevrolet SS, finishes in 7th place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, finishes in sixth place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 STP Ford, Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 Ortho Ford, Trevor Bayne, driver of the #6 AdvoCare Ford, and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Crew members work on the #25 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, driven by Chase Elliott, after being involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, is involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, poses in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident in front of Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, as Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Hormel/Menards Toyota, drives away during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

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3fanforever - Unregistered

May 12, 2010 12:27 AM

I totally agree that Darlington should be given a second date, some of the tracks on the cup and nns schedules are real snoozers. ( I actually dozed off in the stands at last years Brickyard 400, seriously) Not only for the history at the old S.C. facility, but the competition and actual racing that does not occur at a lot of the tracks. I have attended a lot of NASCAR races at a lot of different tracks over the last 40 years and Darlington is one of my all time favorites, at least it has a personality :)



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