Darlington Raceway… One of the oldest tracks on the NASCAR circuit brings a lot of memories and emotions along with its name. It has been loved, it has been hated but it is legendary and has been since it was built in 1950. Along with all of its history it has been known by several names. We all know its real name as the Darlington Raceway but it is also known as “The Lady In Black” and “The Track Too Tough To Tame.” There are reasons why it got those names and why it became a track that was liked and disliked by many and yet it demands and gets respect from all that compete and contend for wins on it.
This is a weekend of throwbacks to the times of the 70’s and 80’s and the legends and heroes and looks of that time period. There is no reason to belabor that part of the conversation because it has been well covered and presented by the media on hand for this special weekend. Still, many of the cars have the names of drivers from the time period and the looks and paint schemes of that time as well. As a long time NASCAR fan, I have to admit it has definitely been a pleasurable walk down memory lane and I remember all of the paint schemes represented on the Cup cars as well as the drivers from that time period.
The cars and the drivers of the time were a whole different breed than the ones in the Cup Series right now and, from this fan’s view, sometimes it is hard to remember what things were like in those days. Because someone had the idea to have these throwback weekends become a part of the regular racing weekends, a lot of us do remember and younger fans can see just how much the NASCAR Cup Series has changed and how much more technology is involved in today’s cars. With just a little media trip through the history of the sport, it is pretty obvious just how much has changed and how much safer the sport is.
Not all that long ago, the cars were just street cars made into racecars and now they are kit cars made to look similar to street cars but… and I have to be very blunt here… “they ain’t street cars at all.” I admit they do look similar to cars that run on the street with the same names but exterior looks “don’t mean a thing” when it comes to comparing them with actual cars on the streets. It kind of reminds me of an old saying we used to throw around when I was racing. That statement really holds true today, especially when it comes to the stock cars, and it goes something like this… “Real racecars don’t have doors.” In this fan’s opinion, truer words were never spoken and they are more true now than ever.
First of all, many wonder why the Darlington Raceway is called “The Lady In Black.” Well… just so you won’t have to go look it up in an encyclopedia or on Google or Wikipedia, I’ll tell you right here. It is because of the way the walls that are painted white turn black from the drivers rubbing up against the wall with their tires and turning them black from the tire rubber. The wall also leaves its mark on the cars and it is called “the Darlington Stripe” but that is a whole other story…
When it comes to why it is called “the Track Too Tough To Tame,” it is because Darlington is a tough track and few there are that really do seem to tame it. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been tamed but it does mean it has been tough for many to tame it. One that did tame it was David Pearson and he had ten Cup victories on the track.
Changing the subject just slightly, there will be in the lineup for the Bojangles Southern 500 a seven time winner at the track. In case you haven’t already guessed or heard that person is Jeff Gordon. Once again this weekend, Jeff will be filling in for the recovering Dale Jr. in the number 88 Hendrick Chevy.
Although this fan doesn’t expect it to happen, there is a high possibility Jeff could win the Southern 500. He definitely still has the talent, the team, the car and the opportunity. All of that added together could mean he ends up in Victory Lane. It turns out that Dale Jr. is taking the rest of the year off to recuperate from his concussion problems and that means Jeff will be in the car for several more of these last twelve races sharing the driving with Alex Bowman. In fact Jeff will be driving in four of the remaining twelve races and Alex will drive in eight of them.
From this fan’s view, Tony Stewart is another to watch for winning this one. Since he is retiring at the end of this year and Darlington is one track he hasn’t won at during his Sprint Cup career, this one is one he would like to win before he leaves the series. This weekend would be a great time for him to pull it off and he is running an old Bobby Allison paint scheme on his car this throwback weekend. What better time than this weekend for him to pull off the victory at this legendary track.
The challenge of Darlington Raceway, The Lady In Black, The Track Too Tough To Tame or by whatever name you choose to call it is the way it is shaped. It is really an egg shape and that means turns one and two have to be treated differently than three and four. It also means there has to be a compromise when it comes to handling. The drivers have to concentrate on which end of the track they’re entering every lap and, as the race wears on, fatigue can set in and mistakes can be made which often means either a Darlington stripe or complete disaster.
When I said earlier this track was liked and disliked by the drivers I didn’t mean they don’t like the challenge of it – I think it is more of a love-hate thing really. Darlington is just another one of those tracks they love to hate, depending on how they come away from it at the end of the race that is…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© September 4, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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