Race Weekend Central

WTF Wednesday: Bring Back the Darlington Excitement

While viewing the final laps of the Aaron’s 312 and 499 Nationwide and Cup series races last weekend, my faith in the excitement that made me love this sport began to return. For the first time in a very long time, I was actually jumping up and down in my living room as I witnessed two drivers drive to dream wins at Talladega Superspeedway.

This weekend, both series will travel to another very exciting track, Darlington Raceway. The track “Lady In Black” has had an extensive history of real door-to-door racing. As many fans may remember, this 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval has played host to some of the best racing that NASCAR competition has ever seen.

I don’t think that race fans will ever forget the closest finish in NASCAR history, in March 2003, where Ricky Craven edged Kurt Busch for the Cup win by only .002 seconds. This track also played host to the first win for Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 winner, Regan Smith, in a race that brought out the tempers of both Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch on pit road for NASCAR Illustrated magazine’s Best Feud.

While I am looking forward to this weekend’s racing, I continue to question NASCAR’s decision to eliminate a second race at the ‘The Track Too Tough To Tame.’ Despite the supercharged racing that has continued at the sport’s first superspeedway twice a year since 1960, NASCAR decided to eliminate a race on the schedule in 2005 so that Phoenix International Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway could pick up additional races.

While I am the first to admit that I have enjoyed some of the racing at Texas and Phoenix, this weekend’s battle at Talladega was reminiscent of the type of David and Goliath battles that were once witnessed at Darlington.

With NASCAR’s eyes continuing to focus on the cash prize, I am afraid that many of the wrong decisions are being made, and that will take away what both competitors and fans are hoping to see: true competition. As Kevin Rutherford so poignantly made clear in Tuesday’s Going by the Numbers, both fans and competitors seemed disappointed and frustrated that many historically competitive tracks, like Darlington and Atlanta, have been stripped of a race. Lest we also forget Rockingham, whom may never be in the running for a Nationwide or Cup series race again?

I have to agree with Rutherford, who brings up a good point, “Imagine if some of these tracks were visited more than once (Darlington and Atlanta once were, of course). Could we have seen better championship finishes?” I believe not only better championship finishes, but increased fan excitement.

As this has been on the top of my mind this week, I decided to take a number from today’s young drivers who cling to social media for fan input. I took to Facebook to ask a few friends and fans their thoughts on adding a second Darlington race to the future top series schedules.

Chase O’Brien, a longtime NASCAR fan who also spends a lot of his Saturday nights at several local NASCAR Home Tracks, said it is time to bring tracks like Darlington back to their past glory.

“The races are great at this drivers track,” said O’Brien. “One groove tracks always put on a show and while some drivers may not like this fans do. Why do you think fan attendance at tracks like Bowman Gray Stadium are consistently high?”

Paul Heath, Motorsports Social Media Consultant, said that he was disappointed when Darlington’s Labor Day race was taken away in the past and would like to see this return.

“Tracks that are a part of when and where NASCAR got its roots are now basically being disrespected and forgotten,” said Heath. “Darlington deserves to have two races a year and never should have lost one. I think you would be hard pressed to find a driver in the Sprint Cup Series that wouldn’t like to see Darlington get its two races back.”

So as NASCAR continues to try to drive its way into the future, let’s hope that some of these continuously perplexing changes don’t take away the kind of excitement that us longtime fans have all come to know and love.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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