No other track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit has more nicknames or taglines attached to it than Darlington Raceway.
Every NASCAR fan knows them by heart.
She is “The Lady in Black.” This place is “The Track Too Tough to Tame.” And you’ve not raced hard enough unless you’ve had a “Darlington Stripe” on your race car.
A throwback to stock-car racing’s past if there ever was one, this 1.37-mile piece of history was NASCAR’s original super speedway built in an era when stock-car speeds topped out at 100 miles per hour. Today, with its narrow track, rough surface and speeds nearly 100 mph faster, Darlington is arguably the toughest challenge for a driver on the entire Sprint Cup schedule.
Greg Biffle, who has two wins and two poles at Darlington Raceway, tries his best to talk about what it's like racing here, yet admittedly falls short trying to answer.
“I don’t know if I can tell you what it is like to drive around this track. It is pretty hard. I don’t know how every other driver feels, but this is probably the toughest place we race at as far as concentration and what it takes to get around here.
"You drive the corner close to 200 miles per hour, about 190 and the car slides up and hopefully stops about six inches from the wall as you are pushing the power to it. It just takes a lot.”
And it is a most satisfying feeling, when you’ve been 500 miles around this place and you know you’ve taken the checkered flag first.
Ask defending race winner Matt Kenseth:
“It was a really big win. I always feel like the Southern 500 is one of the biggest races of the year—certainly it was right up there towards the top of my list of tracks I wanted to win at that I never won at before last year.”
The Southern 500 is the first Saturday night race of the Sprint Cup season. It starts before the sun sets and runs nearly fours long, well into the South Carolina spring night.
The key to winning here: race the track, not the other 42 cars on the track.
As the cars fly by you at nearly 200 mph, you can almost imagine when drivers with names such as Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, David Pearson, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison dominated on this track.
There’s no question that NASCAR was born in the South. And while it has expanded its reach in the past couple of decades to places far beyond its origins, its heart beats here—at Darlington Raceway.