Located near Darlington in South Carolina is Darlington Raceway. This superspeedway was designed and built specifically with NASCAR racing as its priority. The track is designed in the shape of an egg. The ovals on each end were eventually built with different configurations, due to the proximity of a minnow pond that the owner was not prepared to relocate. This configuration is extremely challenging for the crews and teams, as they need to ensure that their cars can handle both ends of the track effectively.
The history of the Darlington Speedway is somewhat interesting. The track, which is a total of 2.2 kilometers was established more than half a century ago, and it was not unusual for over 80 entrants to be in a race. This was brought to an end with guidelines that were specified by NASCAR with regard to entrants that may qualify. The Darlington Raceway has gone through a few changes over the years that include track reconfiguration, turn renumbering and increased seating availability (60 000), but the pond has still remained. The popularity of the Darlington Speedway is because it was the very first NASCAR superspeedway, and has become a legend in it’s own right. It is also affectionately known as “The Lady in Black”. The name was given due to the walls apparently being painted white just before a race. By the time the race was over, the walls were pitch black due to the tyre contacts. Another name that has been given to the Darlington Speedway is “The Track Too Tough to Tame”. Rookie drivers that hit the walls are said to have secured their “Darlington Stripes”.
Two popular annual races have always been raced here are the Southern 500 and the Winston Cup. The Southern 500, with its ever changing name, used to be hosted on Labor Day Weekend, but has been replaced with a November race, as the Southern 500 moved its venue to the California Speedway. The 2005 announcement that only one race of the Nextel Cup will be raced at Darlington, was made by NASCAR. Many fans and spectators have been upset by this decision. But the protests have fallen on deaf ears, as Darlington Speedway is owned by International Speedway Corporation. They are, in turn, controlled by NASCAR, and any decision can be made, without the risk of legal issues.
The move of the race is due to many factors that have affected the raceway directly. Darlington is a very remote location. It was once home to a thriving textile industry, but due to the industry moving to other counties, the economy has dwindled and many people have lost their jobs. This results in the NASCAR events being poorly attended, as not many spectators in the area can afford tickets. The newer NASCAR races are held at venues closer to the big cities. It is felt that the remaining race at the Darlington Raceway is also threatened. There is still hope though, as the recent Dodger Charger 500 that was held at the Darlington Speedway, was completely sold out in both 2005 and in 2006.