Fans, businesses, drivers ready for race weekend at Darlington

Pee Dee

DARLINGTON, S.C. (WBTW) — The Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR kicked off Friday at the Darlington Racetrack.

Although only a limited number of fans are allowed in the grand stands this spring, there certainly was no shortage of excitement. Fans traveled from all over the country to the Track Too Tough to Tame.

Shawna Dixson was just coming in from Central Florida.

“My husband has always wanted to come to this race track,” she said. “And we just haven’t been here so it’s an early birthday gift for him.”

Others just had to cross a couple county lines to see their favorite racetrack.

“This was my first race track I ever came to,” Lynn Walden from Lancaster said. “Dale Earnhardt Senior was my driver and he won that day.”

It wasn’t just the fans who were excited, businesses were too.

“I would think our revenues probably increased by at least 75% for the weekend,” Owner of Sara’s Porch restaurant Candace Gleason said about 2019. “The staff is excited, customers are excited.”

This is the first year since 2004 that Darlington has hosted two scheduled NASCAR cup series race weekends.

Even though only a limited number of fans are allowed for this weekend, many hotels in the area have also been looking forward to a boost.

“We’ve all been wishing for this for a long time,” Regional Director of Sales and Marketing with High-Rise Hotels Jenny Hunt said. “We absolutely sell out every race weekend. What the teams don’t pick up, the fans do. Not everyone is a camping type person.”

Hunt said although this year had been a bit slower, Darlington is still ready to welcome fans with open arms.

“People are buying gas, eating at restaurants, staying in motels,” Darlington mayor Curtis Boyd said. “The whole Pee Dee area, Florence, Darlington, it helps us all. And we all work together.”

Track president Kerry Tharp said a race weekend can have an economic impact worth tens of millions on the state.

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“For what a race weekend generates from a financial standpoint and economic standpoint is quite remarkable,” he said. “So being able to have two race weekends here at Darlington is something we’re very, very proud of.”

Tharp is hopeful the track can host two race weekends beyond 2021.

“Nothing is guaranteed,” he said. “But we’re confident we can put on great events here at Darlington. And the racing is great. The facility is historic, it’s iconic.”

Tharp said he works to maintain the track’s ‘mystique’ while at the same time keeping it up to day. It recently underwent some major upgrades and some more improvements are on the way.

“We’ve got a good Wi-Fi project that’s going on right now so by Labor Day all the grand stands will completely be wired with Wi-Fi,” he said.

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