NASCAR heads to Darlington Raceway to celebrate Labor Day with a full weekend of racing competition and fun for the entire family.
As track president Kerry Tharp discussed several of the planned events, one thing was quickly apparent; there will be something for everyone.
“We’re going to have a fan zone. We’ve got a kid zone. We’ve got live entertainment Friday and Saturday night,” he said. “We’ve got a Playoffs party Saturday night and a doubleheader on Sunday.”
But, when the racing begins, tensions will be high as all three series focus on the Playoffs.
Turn 2 of the track was recently repaved in preparation for the Labor Day weekend. It was, however, a necessity rather than an enhancement.
“It was a much better long-term solution than the piecemeal we had been doing for the last three to four years,” Tharp explained. “They finished up about three weeks ago and NASCAR sent some people down from the manufacturers to check out the work. They felt very good about it. It didn’t change any of the banking or any of the geometry of that turn. I think it’s going to have a minimal if any, effect on the racing. It’s something that we had to do.”
The Cook Out Southern 500 is the first race in Round 1 of the Cup Series Playoffs.
The 1.366-mile track presents a unique challenge in the upcoming races. A win will automatically advance a driver through the Playoffs to the next round but there is a delicate balance between aggressiveness and patience.
“Darlington is a race where you need to be patient. It’s 500 miles so it’s 100 miles further than most races. Someone can be leading it on the 100-mile mark and then all of a sudden you look and say, ‘where did that guy go?’
“So I think the (playoff) drivers would certainly want to secure a win here but they also don’t want to forego any chance of advancing with a poor performance here. So, I think they are going to have to be very, very patient, take care of their tires and just be the best they can be.”
Tharp is looking forward to having the Camping World Truck Series back this weekend as they compete in the second race of their postseason playoffs.
“I love having the Trucks here. They put on great racing. I think for fans that have never come to a NASCAR race, the Truck Series is one to start out with. It’s an opportunity to let the fans see some of the younger drivers that are working themselves up into the ranks and there are also some veterans in the mix.”
The Xfinity Series regular season is winding down and with only three races remaining the competition at Darlington will be intense as the drivers contend for the remaining spots.
Although the 2022 schedule has not been released, Tharp is “cautiously optimistic” that the track will have the opportunity to host two race weekends again next year.
“We feel that the fans like coming here, the teams like coming here and it puts on a great show. It’s just a short drive down from where most of the team shops are in the Charlotte area.
“There are a lot of things to do here in South Carolina. It’s a beautiful part of the state and we would certainly welcome two race dates and hope to have two race dates for many, many more years to come.”
This will be the first time since September 2019 that the track is fully open with no seating restrictions in the grandstands and no limits in the camping areas.
“Ticket sales are going well,” Tharp confirmed. “There are really no limitations on our ticket sales or camping. We’re going to have a lot of fans in the grandstands and a lot of campers in the infield and the exterior of the facility.”
There are no specific COVID-19 protocols for fans in outdoor areas but they advise fans to wear masks in any enclosed spaces.
“We just ask fans to be smart and to be accountable for their own health.”
Tickets are available for purchase at https://www.darlingtonraceway.com/.