August 19, 2014

Darlington race date reportedly moving back to Labor Day

NASCAR might be on the verge of giving fans in the Pee Dee what they’ve wanted for the past decade: a race on Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway.

NASCAR might be on the verge of giving fans in the Pee Dee what they’ve wanted for the past decade: a race on Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway.

Media reports have Darlington’s race date being moved to Labor Day, a spot it held from 1950-2003 on NASCAR’s schedule.

On Monday, The Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier and Sirius XM’s Jim Noble reported Darlington would take Atlanta’s Labor Day weekend slot. Atlanta’s date would move to March and Bristol’s spring race date would switch to April, the spot Darlington occupied in this year’s schedule.

Two sources well connected with NASCAR confirmed the news Tuesday to the Morning News but did not want to be identified.

Bristol has struggled with its spring date because of colder temperatures and sagging attendance in recent years. Darlington’s date has bounced around in the past decade. In 2004, Darlington’s fall race date was moved from Labor Day weekend to November, and the track lost one of its two dates in 2005. Its lone date was held on Mother’s Day weekend from 2005-13 and moved to April this year for the first time.

Darlington Raceway president Chip Wile said Tuesday the track “doesn’t respond to rumors.” But Wile and NASCAR president Mike Helton addressed the possibility of moving the date during the track’s race weekend in April. “We are happy with our race date,” Wile said at that news conference. “With our date change, we have seen an increase. We are committed to our April date, but we are open to any conversation.”

Helton’s comments were similar.

“You never know,” he said at that news conference. “I have seen a lot of things in this sport that I am surprised by, and that leads me to believe the future of the sport can have things happen in it that people say I don’t think it would happen again. So my answer to you is you never know.”

Last month on Sirius Satellite Radio, NASCAR chairman Brian France said there will be changes to the schedule next season. NASCAR is expected to officially release its schedule later this month or in early September.

“There’s not going to be a dramatic change, but there may be some things that are a little different,” France said. “That’s not unusual. You come back to moving dates around and whatever else, we don’t do a lot of it, but we do a little of it from time to time, and this will be one of those moments.”

Darlington’s move back to Labor Day not only would restore the tradition of the race weekend date but also would put Darlington in more of a spotlight in NASCAR’s schedule. The race would be the 25th on the schedule and the one before the Chase field is determined the following week in Richmond.

The race would be run on Sunday night in primetime on a holiday weekend. And with Monday being the Labor Day holiday, the race might attract more people from around the Southeast and beyond.

The race date change would go hand-in-hand with Darlington’s marketing campaign to highlight its history going forward into next year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 weekend. The campaign will feature up-and-coming driver Chase Elliott and his father, Bill Elliott.

Wile said in April that NASCAR Classics clothing merchandise being produced will have a retro look. There also will be a throwback ticket for the race weekend. Other details will be released throughout the year leading up to next year’s weekend.

“What we have here, nobody else has. We have Darlington,” Wile said in April. “We need to capitalize on that and make it something that is celebrated.

“We want to make our weekend unique and make it a can’t-miss weekend. That is what we are trying to do here. I promise you, 2015 will be special.”

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