Wile takes over as Darlington boss
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP)
Darlington Raceway President Chris Browning has resigned and International Speedway Corporation named Chip Wile as replacement at NASCAR's oldest superspeedway.
ISC announced the move Thursday ISC President John Saunders wished Browning well in future endeavors.
Browning, who headed the track ''Too Tough To Tame'' since May 2004, said in a release that he resigned to pursue other career opportunities. He declined to comment on his departure when reached by phone Thursday.
Wile, 33, had been director of business development for the Motor Racing Network. He told The Associated Press that he plans to tap into Darlington's history to improve the race-day experience for fans.
''This racetrack has been one of the crown jewels of the sport for 60 years,'' Wile said by phone. ''I promise that Darlington will have a place in NASCAR.''
Wile also expected the track to retain its annual date on Mother's Day weekend, which he believes has turned into a modern tradition for a track that held its first race in 1950.
Chip Wile said he'd spent his first weeks learning more about Darlington's operations from the staff before implementing ideas to keep fans coming out to the track. One of Wile's tasks since he was hired by ISC was improving fan experiences at all the company's 11 racetracks. Don't be surprised, he said, if some of those enhancements show up at Darlington.
''We want to make Darlington special,'' said Wile, who noted that he's worked with race teams in several capacities since graduating from the University of Georgia. ''The fans have to come first. We all understand that.''
Browning helped Darlington through a period of transition during his nine years in charge. The track had recently installed lights for night racing when Browning arrived in 2004. Darlington had also gone from two races a year — including the Southern 500 run on Labor Day weekend — to one with its lone date coming on Mother's Day weekend.
Browning and his staff had four straight sellouts of its Mother's Day race from 2005 through 2008.
He oversaw $10 million in capital improvements in 2007 that included a larger, new tunnel for infield access and a repavement of the craggy surface that sent test speeds at Darlington soaring past 200 mph on the straightaways.