Governor welcomes new race weekend

S.C. Governor Henry McMaster (right) and Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette (at his right) at a news conference in Columbia last week, to cheer on the new race weekend. PHOTO COURTESY OF S.C. GOVERNOR’S OFFICE

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

For a few seconds during his Columbia news conference to welcome Darlington’s new NASCAR race weekend May 7-9, Gov. Henry McMaster seemed to be gripping the steering wheel of a zooming stock car. “You have to be there (in person) and have to watch those cars as they go down the straightaway, coming up to the corner, they’re zig-zagging to warm their tires up just for that little edge, they’re going speeds up to 200 miles an hour,” McMaster said. “You talk about competition!” McMaster enthused. “This is high-level competition and it’s total excitement. We are glad we have Darlington (Raceway) in South Carolina; it’s a wonderful institution.” McMaster brought Raceway President Kerry Tharp and other officials to the Governor’s Mansion April 28 to welcome the first runnings of the Raceway’s new NASCAR weekend, which will join the Labor Day weekend races that feature the Southern 500. “Darlington is blessed to be able to host two NASCAR race weekends in 2021, the first time since 2004 that we can say we were able to do that,” Tharp said at the news conference. “Just a little over a year ago,” Tharp added, “Darlington was able to bring live sports back to this country when we hosted three NASCAR races over a five-day period. It was a memorable few days. We were able to provide some hope to people across this country during an extremely difficult and challenging time. Without the support of Gov. McMaster and the leadership in this state, we would not have been able to accomplish that.” Because the COVID pandemic shut down most sports nationwide, NASCAR decided to hold three races at Darlington last spring – without spectators – to jump-start its stalled racing schedule. A limited number of spectators were allowed to attend last fall’s Southern 500, and the track will again be limiting fans for the upcoming race weekend. The Goodyear 400, a new NASCAR Cup Series race, debuts May 9 as part of the weekend of events at Darlington Raceway: — On Friday, May 7, at 7:30 p.m., Darlington will host the 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Triple Truck Challenge race. — On Saturday, May 8, at 1 p.m., the Steakhouse Elite 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash race will be run. — On Sunday, May 9, at 3:30 p.m., the Goodyear 400 will run. It will be broadcast on FS1, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. This weekend also is part of Darlington Raceway’s traditional Throwback Weekend, when some drivers have their cars repainted to match the paint schemes of past drivers they admire. Throwback Weekend “has become extremely popular at Darlington,” Tharp said. Also, at weekend races at Kansas Speedway and Darlington Raceway, as part of NASCAR’s Troops to the Track military salute sponsored by Coca-Cola, active service members from local bases will receive grandstand tickets, NASCAR said in a news release. Jordan Anderson, a driver in the weekend’s truck race who attended the press conference, showed off his contribution to Throwback Weekend: He’s had his racing truck repainted in honor of his fiance’s father, Larry McReynolds, who was crew chief for NASCAR driver Mark Martin. The paint scheme reflects how Martin’s car was painted in 1982. “Definitely, you can tell it’s out of the ’80s,” Anderson said. “That Lady in Black likes to jump out,” Anderson said. “You run up against that wall – somehow you just slip up a little bit – the next thing you know, you’ve got two right side tires that are flat. It’s definitely one of the toughest tracks we go to.” Even though the COVID-19 threat seems to be fading, at least in this part of the country, track officials still will observe strict COVID precautions at this race weekend. One precaution: The crowd will be limited to about one-third of the Raceway’s seating capacity. “We still need to be smart,” Tharp said. “We still need to handle this thing the right way.” COVID precautions extend to the press corps covering the race, which will be limited. Full-blown access to the “competition restricted area” – such as the garage, pit road – will be limited to media members who have been “fully vaccinated.” That means it’s been 14 days since your final vaccine shot. Masks and social distancing will also be required. As for regular fans, here are some of the precautions the track is observing: — Seating and camping capacities will be “reduced.” — All guests (age 3 and up) must wear face coverings. — Guests will be directed to “specific, spaced-out parking lots.” — Each guest will be screened at the event gates; initial screening “could include questions regarding current health status and potential exposure and/or a non-contact temperature check.” — A “sequenced” entry/exit procedure through the gates will be used to “minimize large concentrations of personnel or guests.” — Hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations will be placed throughout the operating areas and entrances, and guests are encouraged to use them “often.” — A “Clean Team” will be cleaning or disinfecting areas “at all times.” — “Limited” tailgating will be permitted before the event “with your individual group in your individual parking spot, while maintaining distancing (no tents or grills).”



Author: Rachel Howell

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