Here we are ready for another weekend of exciting racing at one of Nascar's most infamous tracks, "The Lady In Black," Darlington Raceway. No matter if you're headed there to see one of the races in person or plan on reserving your seat on the couch with favorite beverage at your side, here's a few things you can expect from the "Track Too Tough To Tame."
If a car is tight, look for the cars left side tires to go to the bottom line at the apron, or even just below it to loosen it up some. Once the cars hit the apron, they'll shoot up the track to inches or even centimeters off the retaining wall. Some cars can get a run under a guy in the turns and make the pass. If that lower line car gets in the turn too hard, they'll complete the pass, but the other car can swing low off the turn and make the pass down the backstretch.
With the new pavement, lap times won't drop the usual two to three seconds like they have in the past. They'll only drop a few tenths of a second, so tire wear won't be that big of a problem this race as in the past. Both races will see their share of yellow flags but they also are prone to long green flag runs.
Here's some helpful hints for those of you (especially you first timers) who are lucky enough to be attending in person. If you're headed to the track from the west or northwest (Columbia, SC or Charlotte, NC area), you may be coming down highway 34 & 151 (Harry Byrd Highway). You'll see the turns 3 & 4 when you get close. Get in the right lane and look for the parking lot just off turn 3. They'll be plenty of flaggers in the parking lot directing you to a spot. Hopefully you'll get a close spot to the track. Don't worry if you don't. Just remember what row you're in and look for a landmark for where you parked your car. A large truck, certain tailgaters, portable lighting system or even a certain race flag. All the race souvinier rigs are parked behind the front stretch along with the Speed Channel Speed Stage and several on track displays. Take your time and pick up as many freebies as you can. One of my personal favorites. Across Highway 34/151, will be several race souvinier vendors. Make sure you get officially licensed stuff and not off brand or pirated stuff.
Here's a couple of helpful hints in your exit strategy after the race. If you do park in that lot off turns 3 & 4, your wait could take an hour to two hours to get out. This holds true more so after the Sprint Cup Race rather than the Nationwide Series. From personal experience, you can actually cut that time down if you try to head to one of the lines closest to the access road by the hospitality village or by the fence furthest away from the track. Everyone seems to think that if you get in the most direct line to the exit, you'll get out faster. Not so my weery race friends. The furthest lines actually move quicker. Once you get to the exit, the South Carolina Highway Patrol will be directing traffic. You can turn either left or right. Just make sure you are in the correct lane you want to go in. I would suggest that especially after the Sprint Cup race that you consider tailgating for an hour or so, hit those souvinier rigs again or just mill around to avoid the longest lines.
Very Important Tip -- If you are taking highway 34/151 and heading back toward Bishopville to take I-20 west toward Columbia or even back to Georgia, beware of a potential sobriety/DL checkpoint in Bishopville. The best way to avoid getting a DUI is not to drive drunk. Get that designated driver. South Carolina has an open conainer law. No open containers of beer or alcohol are allowed anywhere by anyone in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. This is a jailable offense, so be forewarned.
Enjoy the races fans!!
Here's the track lineup for this weekend:
Thursday, May 08 3:00 p.m. Grandstand Gates Open 3:00 p.m. NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice4:00 p.m. **HOT PASS IN EFFECT** (Pit road will be cleared.)4:30 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice 5:40 p.m. NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice 6:30 p.m. **HOT PASS IN EFFECT** (Pit road will be cleared.) 7:00 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice 8:10 p.m. NASCAR Nationwide Series Final Practice Friday, May 09 12:00 p.m. Grandstand Gates Open 12:00 p.m. **HOT PASS IN EFFECT** (Pit road will be cleared.) 12:00 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice 2:00 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Final Practice 3:10 p.m. NASCAR Nationwide Series Qualifying (Two Laps) 4:45 p.m. **HOT PASS IN EFFECT** (Pit road will be cleared.) 5:15 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying (Two Laps) 7:00 p.m. Driver Introductions for Diamond Hill Plywood 200 7:30 p.m. Diamond Hill Plywood 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series Race (147 Laps, 200.8 Miles) Saturday, May 102:00 p.m. Grandstand Gates Open 6:20 p.m. **HOT PASS IN EFFECT** (Pit road will be cleared.) 6:50 p.m. Driver Introductions for Dodge Challenger 500 7:20 p.m. Dodge Challenger 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race (367 Laps, 501.3 Miles) *All times are tentative and subject to change.