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  • Darlington RacewayDarlington Racetrack Darlington, South Carolina
    The Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina is a NASCAR racing track that has been called the "lady in black" and "the Track too tough to Tame" by many drivers, fans and advertisements. The unusual egg shaped design caused by a minnow pond that the former owner of the land wouldn't move, and thus making it very hard for the pit crews to set up their cars to handle the two different ends. It all began in 1948, when Harold Brasington retired from racing, and after having met and raced against Bill France, Sr. at Daytona and other dirt tracks around the southeast and Midwest, he wanted to spend his time on farming and construction. After attending the 1948 Indy 500 races and seeing the huge crowds, he got an idea that if Tony Hulman could do it at Indianapolis, he could do it in the south. Buying 70 acres from another farmer, he started making the race track out of a peanut and cotton field but needing to form one end differently because he had promised Sherman Ramsey that he wouldn't disturb his minnow pond. The end by the minnow pond had to be built tighter, more narrow and steeper to get around, while the other end could be as wide and sweeping as he wanted. In 1950, he made a deal with France to run a 500 mile race on Labor Day, with a purse of $25,000, co-sanctioned by NASCAR and the Central States Racing Association. Over 80 applicants showed up for the first running of the Southern 500 and Harold used a two week qualifying period like Indy for its race. He had the car line up in threes, thus making 25 rows; but over the years has changed because of the number of cars allowed in each race. The raceway has achieved some notoriety because of the length of its track, which allowed the cars to reach higher speeds before going into the turns. The name the lady in black came about because the walls were painted white before each race, yet by the end were black from the tires running up on them and new racers coming here almost always hit the wall which gives them the Darlington stripe. For a long time, it was the scene of two yearly Sprint Cup series races, the Rebel 400 and Southern 500, the first in the spring and the second on Labor Day; but was changed in 2003, giving the Labor Day race to the California Speedway and the Southern 500 moved to November. In 2005, the Southern 500 was done away with, and the 400 was moved to Mother's Day, and the 500 was renamed after a Dodge for the next four years before being returned to the Southern 500 in 2009.

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  • Darlington Raceway Stock Car MuseumDarlington Raceway Stock Car Museum Darlington, South Carolina
    The stock car museum at the Darlington Raceway highlights the marvelous history of the raceway and the fantastic sport of stock car racing. The displays include the race car history, classic cars and memorabilia and includes cars driven at Darlington by such greats as Darrell Waltrip, Richard Petty and the 1950 Plymouth that Johnny Mantz won the first 500 with. It also contains the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame about the NASCAR racing sport with information about many of the inductees including Neil Bonnett, Alan Kulwicki, Junior Johnson, Lee Petty, Richard Petty and David Pearson. The museum was the brainchild of Nascar racing champion Joe Weatherly, who had been killed at the Riverside International Raceway in 1964 and dedicated to Joe in 1965. It originally had been called the Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum, but after being increased in size, was called the Darlington Raceway Stock Car Museum, since it was on the property and affiliated with the track. Joe had won the Darlington race twice, in 1960 and 1963, and was quite the favorite among fans and drivers. He was fearless when driving, and off the track was a well known and liked prankster. It was he that suggested the museum at first, and after his death, it became a reality. The history of stock car racing and the raceway are showcased here, with many beautiful relics that still live here. Johnny Mantz, the driver to win at the Darlington, had been the slowest qualifier at the start, but had gone on to win with 15 laps over second place winner, Fireball Roberts. They have the winningest car of all time in stock car racing, a 1956 Ford convertible that won 22 races in one year, winning them all in the convertible series; plus three more that had to have the top welded on; and the Mountain Dew Southern 500. Another beauty is the 1967 Plymouth that Richard Petty won 10 races in the year, sporting a great blue exterior and the number 43 painted on the doors. The 1991 Chevy Lumina that rolled Darrell Waltrip 9 times in the 91 Pepsi 400 sits there. A favorite, but sad exhibit is the handprints of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. saved in concrete, who had been a nine time winner here, second only to David Pearson.

January 11, 2011