Darlington Adds Another Race Mother's Day Weekend

Wednesday, March 7th 2007, 6:22 am
By: News On 6

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ For the first time in more than 50 years, U.S. Auto Club cars will speed around Darlington Raceway, which this week announced it added an event to its Mother's Day weekend lineup.

Several Silver Crown series racers tested at the track ``Too Tough To Tame'' last week and, after finding a tire that would stand up to the nearly 60-year-old layout, added Darlington to the schedule.

Cars in the Silver Crown series look like muscled-up sprint cars, weigh about 1,800 pounds, run straightaways up to 190 mph and carry enough fuel to finish a 50-lap race without pitting.

Some of NASCAR's most successful names, including Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman, are Silver Crown champions.

The race May 10 will take place under Darlington's lights the day before the Busch series race and two days ahead of Nextel Cup's Dodge Avenger 500.

USAC cars hadn't run at Darlington since 1956 when Pat O'Connor guided his Sumar Special to victory in a Fourth of July event.

``I think the first thing is this is really going to enhance our weekend,'' Darlington president Chris Browning said Tuesday. ``People think Indy cars and that's not what they are.''

Bad weather kept Silver Crown racers from getting in as many laps as they had hoped last week. But Browning said you could see drivers slowly getting a bead on the best way around Darlington.

``I'm still not sure they understand how close to the wall you have to get,'' Browning said.

It didn't take long for the Silver Crown drivers to find out what stock car racers have known forever _ Darlington is hard to get around.

Veteran USAC racer Brian Tyler was the first of eight drivers on the track last Wednesday. The next day, Tyler was the first to get a famous ``Darlington stripe'' for hitting the wall.

Tyler tagged the outside wall in turn four early in Thursday's testing at the egg-shaped, 1.366-mile oval. The car wasn't seriously damaged and Tyler was back on the track later.

``It's not a standard race track,'' Tyler said. ``You're out there trying to race the race track itself more so than the other competitors. I'm just trying to figure out how to hold my breath for one hundred miles.''

What impressed Darlington's president most was the drivers' reverence for the historic track. ``You could hear it in their voices,'' Browning said.

The biggest question was whether the tires could stay strong enough for Darlington, infamous for chewing up rubber.

If USAC had deemed it too hazardous, Browning said Darlington probably would've had to move up plans to eventually repave the track.

``It's going to be just like a cup race,'' Browning said. ``The tires are going to fall off, but it'll still be a good race.''

The track has looked to diversify its events, seeking races that make sense financially and are of interest to area fans, Browning says.

Darlington's latest event is another nod to tradition that's kept NASCAR's oldest superspeedway viable for almost six decades, Browning said.

It was open-wheel racing at Indianapolis that gave developer Harold Brasington the idea to build Darlington in 1949. To have USAC running here now ``is kind of neat when you think about it,'' Browning said.