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Darlington Raceway:

The Lady in Black


# 10 5/7/11 Showtime Southern 500 7:30PM FOX

2010 Winner Denny Hamlin

Latest Darlington, South Carolina, weather conditions and forecast

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In the fall of 1949, a man named Harold Brasington set out to make the Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina.

After returning from a trip to the Indianapolis 500 in 1933 he believed that NASCAR would catch on and wanted to create his own speedway so, he designed the first ever paved raceway.

Darlington is a favorite among many drivers and fans, since this is where NASCAR began.

Darlington Raceway has a distinctive egg shaped design because of a pond that was located on the land. The landowner did not want to disturb the nearby fishing pond. Therefore, turns 3 and 4 were narrowed a bit from the original design in order to accommodate the pond.

The first race took place on Labor Day of 1950 and took over six hours to finish. California native Johnny Mantz started last and finished first in a field of 75 cars in the first ever Southern 500.

Many of the drivers had never even raced on asphalt before. This was the first of many races that would make NASCAR the sport it is today.

Recent Southern 500 Winners

2010 Denny Hamlin
2009 Mark Martin
2008 Kyle Busch
2007 Jeff Gordon
2006 Greg Biffle

Track Details

Today, Darlington Raceway is referred to as the track "Too Tough to Tame” and “The Lady in Black”. The track received the nickname “Lady in Black” because of the it's temperamental and unpredictable nature.

The walls surrounding the track are painted white. However, after the race, the walls are mainly black, due to the cars, best case 'brushing' the wall or worst case slamming the wall so hard the car is unrepairable.

Anytime a rookie runs into a wall at Darlington, they are considered to have earned their “Darlington Stripe”.

The egg shaped track has remained true to Harold Brasington’s original vision. However in 1997 to increase the seating capacity new grandstands were built on the old back stretch and what was originally the backstretch is now the frontstretch and vice versa.

The track is 1.366 miles in length with the banking from 23 degrees on turns 3 and 4 to 25 degrees on turns 1 and 2. On the backstretch, the banking is a mere 2 degrees, while on the frontstretch the banking is 3 degrees. Pit road is a total of 2, 025 feet in length and 46 feet wide.

In June of 2007 a $10 million dollar improvement project of the Darlington Raceway began. The project not only includes a complete repaving of the track’s surface, but new concrete pit stalls and a new tunnel under turn 3 that gives access to the infield.

The Museum

The Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum at Darlington Raceway offers visitors a bit of everything. The museum gives race fans a glimpse of races gone by at Darlington, as well as the overall history of NASCAR.

One of the cars sitting in the museum is a 1956 Ford convertible, which won more than any other stock race car. The car had the top welded on during the Mountain Dew Southern 500. You will also find Richard Petty’s 1967 Plymouth, which won a total of 10 different races that year.

Race Details

For many years, there were two races held each year at Darlington. The first was the race held in spring, followed by the Southern 500 on Labor Day. In 2003, the Labor Day raced moved to the California Speedway.

In 2004, the Southern 500 moved to November, which was part of the Sprint Cup Chase races. However, in 2005, NASCAR decided to eliminate the Southern 500 altogether, leaving only the spring race.

But in 2009 NASCAR began calling the only Sprint Cup race held at Darlington Raceway the Southern 500 once again.

One of the most remembered events took place in 1985. Bill Elliot not only won the Southern 500, but he also won the “Winston Million”.

The Winston Million was a one million dollar bonus, sponsored by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, to the driver who could win three of the four biggest races: the Daytona 500, the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Southern 500 at Darlington.

What started as Harold Brasington’s vision back in 1933 has now become a legendary race track. Both the fans and the drivers enjoy visiting the track.

NASCAR truly got its start on Labor Day weekend, 1950, at the Darlington Raceway. Today, the legend lives on and is still one of the most popular race tracks among fans and drivers alike.

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