Darlington Raceway saved by NASCAR’s throwback weekend
Darlington Raceway was almost another lost Southern track. Now, the Southern 500 is one of the crown jewel NASCAR events. A simple idea, saved the racetrack and quite possibly the entire Southern roots of NASCAR.
“Leave it up to me to break it down a little bit more. This is what I believe, not even what I believe. Here’s what happened…,” Kenny Wallace tells it like it is via The Late Shift on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
“Our Southern racetracks, like Rockingham. Sold out with 60,000 people. At one point, 40,000. So, then all of the sudden we were looking at Darlington. Although the grandstands were packed, they didn’t have a lot of grandstands.”
Rockingham Speedway hosted it’s final race in 2004. Matt Kenseth took the win.
“Somewhere in the grand scheme, it was like… ‘Ok, let’s shit can Rockingham and Darlington because we’re gunna go to California, we’re gunna go to Chicago.’ ”
In 2005, the NASCAR schedule took a wild shift. Rockingham was no more. In addition, Darlington Raceway lost one of it’s two races. It’s sole remaining date was moved to Mother’s Day weekend.
“Listen, this is my opinion. I don’t know if the NASCAR executives are listening or not. They’re good to me,” Kenny Wallace politely tries to mend the fence, before he breaks it.
“But, they thought that if we would go uptown, that would be cool. Well, we forgot, not we, but they forgot… that they were alienating maybe a 60,000 base.”
At this point I could go on my own rambling rant against 1.5 mile tracks. But Kenny Wallace is more entertaining. So, I’ll let him speak instead.
“You alienated. You got rid of [North] Wilkesboro, got rid of Rockingham and you were really close to killing Darlington. You can’t go back to Rockingham no more, that’s done. North Wilkesboro? Done. It’s sad to say.”
That track was just so close to being done.
“Think about how lucky Darlington is. In my opinion, that track was just so close to being done.”
“I truly believe, whoever it was in that meeting. I don’t know if it was Chip Wile,” who’s the former President of Darlington Raceway. Today, he’s the President of the flagship ISC racetrack, Daytona International Speedway.
“But, whoever dreamed up this Throwback weekend… I’ll go as far as to say, they saved the Darlington Speedway and they saved the Southern 500.”
“It was a simple idea created years ago, Chip Wile & the entire Sport did incredible job bringing it to life!,” stated Daryl Wolfe, Exec. Vice President and CMO of International Speedway Corporation.
“Good ideas start on the back of napkin,” Dennis Bickmeier, President of Richmond Raceway.
“There’s been too much division in NASCAR. In the world of NASCAR right now where, ‘NASCAR hates me or forgot about me. I’m 60 years old. I’m upset Dale Sr’s gone.’ ”
“This is that one week that maybe could mend the bridge,” Kenny Wallace concludes.