By admin | May 10, 2012
By Richard Allen
I have seen Sprint Cup races in person on at least ten different race tracks and, of course, I have seen all of them on television. For my money, Darlington Raceway is the best to attend in person and a favorite to watch on TV as well.
The 1.366 mile ‘Lady in Black’ represents all that drew me and many others to this sport initially. This is a track unlike any other on the NASCAR schedule with its odd oval shape created by the builder’s desire not to disturb a pond located near the property. Those turns were also built with slightly differing banking on each end as well, which requires adaptation in both driving styles and setups.
The track’s abrasive surface causes tires to wear quickly, which will reward the driver who plans well and conserves during the early part of a run while punishing the driver who uses his equipment up too soon after his most recent pit stop.
So many of today’s tracks are the same. From week to week it seems as though the location may change in NASCAR but the actual race course does not. The smoothly paved, similarly shaped 1.5-2 mile ‘cookie cutter’ facilities designed within the last twenty years or so do not offer the distinction or character of Darlington.
Driving at high speed on any race track is not easy, but Darlington goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to keeping drivers on their toes. A narrow groove and slippery surface make for an adventurous 500 mile trip in the low country of South Carolina. By the end of the night, more than a few cars will be displaying a prominent ‘Darlington Stripe’ on the right side.
Even more than that, this track is part of the original lore of this sport. Opened in 1950 by Harold Brasington, this was NASCAR’s original super speedway. The most legendary names have been written into the history of this track. Petty, Pearson, Allison, Yarborough, Waltrip, Earnhardt and Gordon are among the legendary figures to have won here.
A lot of things have changed throughout the history of NASCAR. But fortunately, some things have remained the same. And one of those constants has been the Darlington Raceway and its unique character. For my money, this is the best place on the circuit to watch a race.
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