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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
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, suffers a mechanical issue during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeffrey Earnhardt, driver of the #55 Fronius USA/Viva Auto Group Chevrolet, spins out during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #88 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #88 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 28, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, soc during practice for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, drives in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmie John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
David Ragan, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, signs the Coors Light Pole board after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with the Pole Award after qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS qualifies in second position Friday, February 27, 2015 for a front row position start in Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS qualifies in third position Friday, February 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #4 Energizer Chevrolet SS qualifies in sixth position Friday, February 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS qualifies in seventh position Friday, February 27, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Team XTREME Racing #44 entry - driven in the Daytona 500 by Reed Sorenson (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development, speaks to members of the media after a testing session at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 26, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.  (Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/NASCAR via 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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