Darlington Raceway eager to welcome fans back this Labor Day Weekend
DARLINGTON, S.C. – On Labor Day weekend, Darlington Raceway will host its 12th NASCAR national series race in only two years, and Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp couldn’t be more thrilled. Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic initially hit, NASCAR competition came to a halt in March. Wanting to return to competition but limit the time teams and drivers spent on the road, NASCAR made the decision that Darlington Raceway would host the industry’s return because it was located so close to the Charlotte-area, where most teams are located. Three NASCAR Cup Series races, two NASCAR Xfinity Series races and a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race later, Darlington Raceway had solidified its second date on the 2021 schedule. In May, Darlington Raceway hosted all three NASCAR national series, and now, the Lady in Black will do so again this weekend. “We will have had 12 NASCAR races in two years here,” Tharp said. “We love that. I love it that the Trucks come. I really do. I think they put on great racing. If you remember the Truck race here in May, it was pretty eventful. They hit about everything out there. It’ll be a lot of fun. The Xfinity Series race, while it’s not in the Playoffs, it’s getting close to cutoff time, so they will be jockeying, and of course you know the Cup race, you win that race, and then you advance to the next round, so that’s a big deal.” This weekend however, will be a much different situation than last year and even in May of this year because there will be no capacity limitations to the grandstands and camping areas. This will mark the first time since September 2019 that the track has had the opportunity to host fans at maximum capacity. Consumer ticket sales are going really. In fact, the sales are about par with the 2019 sellout, but at the moment, there are still seats available for those who want to make a last-minute decision to attend the race weekend. “We’re excited about having the fans back here on Labor Day weekend,” Tharp said. “It’ll be the first time really that we’ve had fans to somewhat full capacity in two years. September 2019 was the last time that we had out stands fully open and the campgrounds fully open, so that’s exciting. Our fans have been, oh my goodness, they have been extremely patient and supportive. We’ve had to rollover some accounts, and they’ve hung in there and wanted to come to the races when they could. To be able to have them back here is a real blessing.” Not only will fans be back, but Darlington Raceway and NASCAR are going all-out in welcoming everyone to the track, Too Tough To Tame. Merchandise haulers and displays will fill the fan zone located behind the frontstretch grandstands. There will also be a kid’s zone, along with music in various locations throughout the entire weekend. “We’ll have merchandise haulers out there,” Tharp said. “I think we’ve got about eight or nine haulers out there. We’ll have displays. We’ve got a kid’s zone that’s going to be really, really cool. I think that we’ve got some music out there on Friday (Josh Brannon Band), and then Saturday we’ve got some music throughout the day. Saturday night, we’ve got kind of a Playoff party there on the stage. We’ll have the NBC talent, they’re doing a Q&A. We’ll have trivia, we’ll have door prizes. Sunday, we’ll have back-to-back races.” On Sunday, there will be two mobile vaccination sites at Darlington Raceway for fans who want to get their COVID-19 vaccine. Back in the spring, McLeod Health hosted the largest vaccination event in South Carolina at Darlington Raceway. There were roughly 5,400 shots administered for each, first and second rounds. When it comes to the action on the racetrack, fans will be treated to a really unique show, especially since Turn 2 had to be repaved, so the track will be slick. “None of the banking changed,” said Tharp about the repave in Turn 2. “None of the geometry changed of the track. It’s just going to be different. I’ve talked to a few drivers about it – Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, and said that it’ll definitely be different up there, and they think maybe it’ll actually cause a few more wrecks up there. It’ll be slick up there.” Saturday’s VFW Sport Clips Haircuts Help A Hero 200 on Saturday (NBCSN, 3:30 p.m.) won’t be a Playoff race, but it will be one of the closing races of the Regular Season. Brandon Jones is the defending winner of the race. Justin Allgaier won back in May of this year. Sunday’s In It To Win It 200 (FS1, 1:30 p.m.) will be the second race of the Round of 10 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs. Sheldon Creed won the opening race of the round at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Ben Rhodes won this race last September. The weekend finale on Sunday night will be the Cookout Southern 500 (NBCSN, 6 p.m.), which is serving as the opening race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Drivers will be competing with the low-downforce area package. Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick who are notoriously strong at Darlington have yet to win a race this season, and they will be looking to hold off Kyle Larson who won the Regular Season, Martin Truex Jr. who won back in May, as well as Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, William Byron and the remaining drivers in the field. Tharp said, “Hamlin, he still hasn’t won yet. Kevin Harvick, he still hasn’t won yet. Truex has won, and he has been very good here. Kyle Larson hasn’t won here yet, but he has been good here. Chase Elliott hasn’t won here yet (in NASCAR Cup Series), but he has been good here, too. It’s the first race of the Playoffs, you kind of wipe the slate clean, and yet, some of the guys that probably won’t be in the top-16 are still pretty good here. I think that will be interesting.”
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