Darlington’s unique shape, coarse racing surface, and preferred racing line that runs dangerously close to the racetrack’s retaining wall make it one of the most challenging tracks on the circuit.
“The Track Too Tough To Tame.” “The Lady in Black.” These two titles provide some indication of the respect and awe National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) drivers and fans have for Darlington Raceway, the oldest superspeedway hosting Winston Cup events.
The contractor Harold Brasington completed Darlington Raceway in 1950. Brasington had attended the Indianapolis 500 in 1933 and dreamed of building a similar track in his hometown. Although many people laughed at the notion of building such a facility in rural South Carolina, Brasington persisted, and with financing from local business leaders and the donation of seventy acres of land by J. S. (Sherman) Ramsey, Brasington carved the high-banked, egg-shaped, 1.25-mile facility out of the sandy soil of the South Carolina coastal plain. The track was later redesigned to its current 1.366- mile configuration.
The track hosted its first race, the Southern 500, on Labor Day (September 4) 1950 in conjunction with the fledgling NASCAR Grand National series (which later became Nextel Cup) and its owner-promoter Bill France. The success of that first race at Darlington made the small South Carolina town a fixture on the Winston Cup tour. Since 1960 Darlington has hosted annually two races in NASCAR’s top division.
Darlington’s unique shape, coarse racing surface, and preferred racing line that runs dangerously close to the racetrack’s retaining wall make it one of the most challenging tracks on the circuit. South Carolinian David Pearson, the most successful driver at Darlington with ten Winston Cup victories, once argued, “At Darlington you don’t race the other drivers. You race the track.” Dale Earnhardt expressed the satisfaction drivers feel when they conquer this track: “there’s no victory so sweet, so memorable, as whipping Darlington Raceway.”
The track is now owned and operated by the International Speedway Corporation. Darlington Raceway is also home to the Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum and the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame.
Bledsoe, Jerry. The World’s Number One, Flat-Out, All-Time Great Stock Car Racing Book. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975.
Chapin, Kim. Fast as White Lightning: The Story of Stock Car Racing. Rev. ed. New York: Three Rivers, 1998.