Darlington Raceway Demands RespectBy
By Jason A Jarrett
When I think of Darlington Raceway I always think…. Respect!
It Is always interesting to me just how much respect Darlington Raceway demands: past competitors, current competitors, rookies, and veterans. Across the board, no matter which Series, everyone that has turned a lap at Darlington, has a level of respect that isn’t shared by any other speedway.
This week I heard Cale Yarborough and David Pearson interviewed about the memories they have from Darlington Raceway and both gave very detailed information when they were asked about their racing experiences on “The Lady in Black.” Both of these NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees remembered, in detail, their first laps at Darlington Raceway. Cale and David have raced on a lot of race tracks all over the United States, and based on the interviews I listened to, they remember everything about racing at Darlington: wins and losses, good and bad!
In a day where we all seem to jump on the bandwagon to micro criticize the drivers, none of them can be criticized for not respecting this particular race track. I am one that believes they do respect every track but I do think they publicly show more respect for the track “Too Tough to Tame.”
I may be the only Person out here that has the opinion it was smart to have Danica Patrick’s team choose Darlington as her second Sprint Cup race. First of all, they knew she would get practice time and 147 laps of racing, on Friday night, in the NASCAR Nationwide race. Another reason I believe it is a good idea comes from my personal experience at Darlington: it is such a tough place to drive that the drivers simply, race the race track without worrying about their competitors. To an extent, I believe this happens at every track, but not every track takes as much precision as Darlington Raceway. Drivers must “hit their marks” on every lap at Darlington. My final reason for thinking it is a good idea for Danica making her second Sprint Cup Series start at Darlington might also be a stretch, but I believe Charlotte Motor Speedway may be the second hardest track for the drivers. It is my belief that racing Darlington and Charlotte back to back, will help Danica, or any rookie, adapt to all the other tracks throughout the year.
One final thought on Darlington: On Friday, as I observed the drivers practicing for the race, I noticed just how few places on Darlington Raceway they are able to move their lines around to find speed. Most weeks, I can watch and see several drivers taking different lines into the corners and/or through the corners. I can usually see adjustments drivers are making, as they search for one or two tenths of a second, but Darlington was much different. Going into turn three, to just before the center of the corner, is the only place I could see drivers trying different lines. I am sure there were smaller adjustments being made at many different points of this tough race track but the ones I could see from up top were only at the turn 3 portion of the raceway. At most Sprint Cup tracks you can see the drivers trying new lines at both ends of the track, to find the grip and comfort, they need to get all of the speed out the car.
In a time when we are quick to be critical of different facets of NASCAR racing, one thing that I believe will never be criticized is the amount of respect Darlington Raceway demands. Past… Present… Future.
Jason A Jarrett