Harold Brasington’s dream became a reality in 1950.
Brasington, a Darlington businessman, had a vision of hosting big-time stock racing in the Pee Dee region and it happened when 25,000 jammed in his 1.366 egg-shaped oval for the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Johnny Mantz won the inaugural race, and a NASCAR tradition was born.
The track began hosting two races in 1960, and legends such as Cale Yarborough, David Pearson, Richard Petty, Bill Elliott Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon all had multiple wins at the track. Darlington has been home to some of NASCAR’s biggest moments, including the closest race in the sport’s history between Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch in 2003.
Darlington, which added lights in 2004, has gone through its ups and downs over the past 10 years. In 2005, NASCAR took one of Darlington’s two races away and moved its lone date to Mother’s Day weekend, a traditional off weekend for the sport.
Darlington thrived with the new date and sold out four straight years. But like most NASCAR tracks, attendance declined and the date was moved to April in 2014.
The track got its traditional Labor Day date back in 2015, and it was met with a rousing success. NASCAR used the date as a nostalgic weekend with many teams running throwback paint schemes and the track celebrating its storied history.
“I have been to Lambeau Field and I don’t cheer for the Packers and been to Wrigley and I am not a Cubs fan,” Darlington Raceway president Chip Wile said. “You go because of what the place means to the sport. Darlington has that and we wan to make it a must-see event.”