NASCAR

Darlington signs sponsor for Nationwide race

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)

Darlington Raceway has partnered with Sport Clips Haircuts to sponsor the track's NASCAR Nationwide Series race through 2016.

Track President Chip Wile announced the agreement Thursday. The VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 will be run Friday night, April 11, the night before Sprint Cup teams compete in the Southern 500. The agreement means the track ''Too Tough To Tame'' has backers for both its NASCAR races for the next three seasons.

''We've seen a lot of support from fans and leaders in the sport,'' Wile told The Associated Press by phone. ''We know there's always going to be a place for track like Darlington.''

Darlington's upcoming race weekend marks the first races since track had its dates moved up from Mother's Day weekend, where it carved out a niche from 2005-2013 when NASCAR had previously stayed away from racing on that weekend.

Wile, in Daytona, Fla., for NASCAR's Speed Weeks, said he's gotten strong feedback from track owners, International Speedway Corp., about the track's future in NASCAR and its new dates.

''Hey, it gets hot in May,'' Wile said, citing the cooler April temperatures as a reason for moving Darlington's races up a month.

Most longtime ticket holders he's spoken with have understood the move. Any letters or emails Wile got asking for an explanation for the change, got one personally from the track president.

''I think there was only one person who didn't like it after we talked,'' he said.

Wile said the track's ticket sales are on pace for a big crowd come race day. He expects interest to ramp up more now that the Sprint Cup season is starting.

He said he's grateful for Sport Clips' support and said the track embraces the opportunity to help raise awareness about the Veterans of Foreign Wars' mission to support active-duty military, veterans and their families.

The track will donate $2 of each ticket sold between Feb. 25 and March 3 for its two races to Sport Clips' Help A Hero campaign.

Wile said the Nationwide sponsorship deal means he and his staff can focus on longer-term ways to keep the track viable when NASCAR isn't in town.

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