Monday, May 7, 2012

Why I Love NASCAR: Darlington Raceway by Chief 187™

Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
She wears only black by the end of her shift. She is too hard to handle and she is ruthless. Many bear her tattoo, a stripe. She is draped in mystery, endlessly fascinating, and untamable. And when she is conquered at the end of the day, a pile of destruction lays in her wake. She is the undisputed lady of NASCAR. She is Darlington.

Drivers try every trick in their bag, but she bests most of them.

She is the second oldest track on NASCAR’s circuit; Martinsville Speedway claiming the oldest spot.

Since Labor Day 1950 NASCAR has been running races at Darlington Raceway. A year earlier ground was broken on a 70 acre plot of land former racer Harold Brasington bought from farmer Sherman Ramsey in South Carolina. Brasington, inspired by the enormous success the Indianapolis 500 was in Indiana wanted to create something similar in his native South Carolina.

The design of Brasington’s track took on an egg-shape when he had to honor the wishes of Ramsey to not disturb a minnow pond on the west side of the property. Brasington had to adapt his plan to this contingency and wound up creating a track with a steeply banked, narrow, and tight corner on the west side and a flat, wide, and sweeping one in the east.

Brasington, who knew Bill France Sr. from their racing days, struck a deal for NASCAR to race at his track starting on Labor Day 1950. The race was an instant success as it offered the largest purse, $25,000. Approximately 80 participants showed up to vie for the chance to win.

Johnny Mantz won that first race.

Over the years the track has been reconfigured, had its historically important date moved away from Labor Day, and has lost the minnow pond.

NASCAR fans, especially old-schoolers, are disgruntled over the date change of the Southern 500 as well as the loss of one of Darlington’s two original race dates.

Last year saw Regan Smith earn his first career win at the Showtime Southern 500. And, as exciting as that was for the Furniture Row Racing driver, his win was eclipsed by action on the track.

With four laps to go until the end of the race, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick went three wide. Harvick got into Busch who got into Bowyer sending him slamming into the inside wall. Bowyer was unhurt but his night was over.

Busch turned Harvick around in Turn three. Harvick, livid, wanted Busch to get out of his car on Pit Road. Busch refused and wrecked Harvick’s No. 29 car.

All media attention was on the incident between Harvick and Busch while Smith was robbed of his time in the spotlight.

Probation was issued to Harvick and Busch and Smith never won another race last season.

This year’s race promises more incredible moves on and off the track!

With a sold-out crowd and an unmistakable knowledge that every point counts to win a championship, the Bojangles’ Southern 500 should be one of the most exciting races in the first half of the regular season.

Steeped in history, full of race day drama, and a venue where the Lady is “The Track Too Tough to Tame”, Darlington Raceway is yet another reason why I love NASCAR.

Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit


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