Darlington Raceway announces seating renovations

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

 

Darlington Raceway president Kerry Tharp (center) with Terry Labonte (left) and Joie Chitwood III

Already renowned among racing fans as one of NASCAR’s premier venues, the Darlington Raceway has announced a $7 million project to modernize seating and increase fan enjoyment during the Labor Day weekend races.

At a January 31 press conference, Darlington Raceway president Kerry Tharp was joined by NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Terry Labonte and International Speedway Corporation (ISC) executive vice president Joie Chitwood III to unveil the project, dubbed “A Better Darlington…The Tradition Continues.”

We might not have the fanciest place. We might not have the most modern place. But we have the coolest racetrack in NASCAR, and we’re going to make it even better,” said Tharp. “Thanks to ISC, we are going to embark on a capital project that is going to make the fan experience here at Darlington better than ever.”

Set to begin on February 1, this improvement project will remove the 18-inch wide metal seats from the Tyler Tower Grandstand and replace them with stadium-style seats with cupholders. The new multi-colored molded plastic seats will be more generously proportioned, with a seat width of about 20 to 22 inches.

Wallace and Colvin Grandstands will also get a seating overhaul, with new stadium-style bleachers that feature back support and a wider seating area (again, about 20 to 22 inches) to provide spectators with more comfort.

Tharp said the rake of the Tyler Tower Grandstands on the frontstretch will be improved to offer better sightlines and viewing angles.

The Colvin concession and restroom facilities will also be refurbished, and Tharp said the track hopes to install TV screens on the concourse so fans waiting in line for snacks won’t miss a minute of racing action. Other projects include the installation of more hand rails and guard rails, and widening of aisles in seating areas.

Darlington Raceway will also add 36 seats to the Jeff Gordon Finish Line Terrace.

All together, the project will upgrade about 60 percent of the track’s 58,000 seats.

Another thing that we’re doing…is putting a Wall of Honor along the frontstretch and backstretch of our racetrack,” said Tharp. “We’re going to have the names of every race champion ever here at Darlington.”

Labonte said that being included in the Wall of Honor means a great deal to him, and he considers “The Lady in Black” among the top racetracks in NASCAR. Labonte shared some of his history with the track, noting that Darlington is where he ran his first ever race. Texas Terry also earned his first race victory here, and – 23 years later – took the final checkered flag of his career at the 2003 Southern 500.

This is such a historic racetrack, and it means so much to a lot of competitors who have raced here over the years,” said Labonte. “If you want to win a race, you want to win Daytona, Charlotte, and Darlington…it’s always been special.”

Much of the work for these renovations will be performed by area companies, said Tharp, who estimated the project will yield about 28,000 local man hours of work. He reminded guests that through its Labor Day Weekend races – including the Bojangles’ Southern 500 – the Darlington Raceway has an economic impact of over $64 million, with about $58 million of that remaining in the Pee Dee.

 

Author: Samantha Lyles

Staff writer for Darlington News and Press

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