Fast Facts: Darlington Raceway
Darlington Raceway, which hosted its first NASCAR race in 1950, is one of the oldest and most historically significant tracks in the sport of stock-car racing.
It’s also totally unlike any other track on the circuit.
The reason Darlington is egg-shaped and smaller at one end than the other? Track developer Harold Brasington bought 70 acres of land from local farmer Sherman Ramsey, on which he planned to build his track. But as part of the deal, Brasington had to promise Ramsey that he wouldn’t disturb the minnow pond to the west side of the property. Hence, Turns 1 and 2 on the west side are tighter in radius than Turns 3 and 4.
When it opened in 1950, Darlington was the largest and fastest track in NASCAR, measuring 1.25 miles. Most tracks in those days were dirt, but Darlington was pavement and much faster than other tracks back in the day. Twice, it has been reconfigured and now is 1.366 miles.
From its inception, Darlington raced on Labor Day weekend, with the race known as the Southern 500. Until Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, Darlington was the biggest race on the NASCAR schedule.
In the old days, the Labor Day schedule had drivers qualify on Saturday and race on Monday, with the track closed on Sunday. That meant Saturday night was the most raucous party in NASCAR, with Darlington having the kind of wild reputation that Talladega now enjoys.
Curtis Turner won the pole for the 1950 Southern 500 with a speed of 82.034 miles per hour. Kasey Kahne set the track record in 2011 at 181.254 mph.
The largest and smallest fields in Darlington history came in consecutive years: 82 cars competed in the 1951 Southern 500, but the next year the field was just 24 cars.
Terry Labonte won 22 races in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career. His first came in the 1980 Southern 500; his last came in the 2003 Southern 500.
Aric Almirola comes into Darlington with four straight top 10s, although he’s only led one lap all year. The last time the No. 43 had five consecutive top 10s was in 1983, when Richard Petty posted seven top 10s in a row.
From Racing Recall:
The last pole winner to win a race at Darlington was Dale Jarrett in March 1997, 24 races ago. It’s the longest current winless streak by the pole winner at NASCAR.
Some 80 percent of drivers in contention for the Chase for the Sprint Cup after 10 races go on to make the Chase. The furthest back after 10 races to make the Chase was Brad Keselowski, who was 26th in 2011 at this point in the season. Denny Hamlin is now 31st in points.