The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Darlington Raceway President Wile confident old country track will grow with April date

  • Print

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile likes where his old, country track stands in NASCAR, even if it's no longer the sports' backdrop for honouring mothers this week.

The 65-year-old facility had spent the previous nine years building the formerly off weekend of Mother's Day into a can't-miss race for NASCAR moms, who walked across the stage with their sons or daughters during driver introductions and combined for the combined for the unique call of "Drivers and sons, start your engines!"

But Wile believes that the switch in is Darlington's best interest long term and will keep NASCAR's oldest superspeedway relevant with a new generation of race fans.

"Look, it's an old place, but there's lots of things going on," Wile said Thursday.

Wile said he's heard little except raves from NASCAR leaders and officials at Darlington's parent company, International Speedway Corp. The compliments about the strong crowd and the good show continued last week at Talladega where Wile was in attendance.

The racing didn't hurt either. Fan favourite Dale Earnhardt Jr. was out front near the end until he was passed by Kevin Harvick with two laps left to win the Southern 500.

"Harvick kept texting me since saying, 'We've got to do this or that at your track,'" Wile said. "So drivers understand this place is important."

After a few weeks to review numbers and catch their breaths, Wile says track leaders have started plans to make things even better in 2015. He's confident the April race weekend will stick and give fans something to count on each season.

That was certainly the case for more than a half century when the Southern 500, one of NASCAR's crown jewel races, capped the summer season with its Labor Day weekend running. The tradition ended after 2003 when the event shifted to California. After the 2004 season, Darlington was reduced to just one Sprint Cup weekend each season. Night racing began the next year with the first of the "Lady in Black's" first Mother's Day runnings.

The track had sold out its first four Mother's Day weekend races, but attendance had fallen off in recent years. Wile said the track came close to a full house a month ago, although he would not provide details about attendance, citing track policy

A month ago, NASCAR President Mike Helton was on hand as Darlington unveiled plans to tie its long, successful past to its future. Helton was asked if Darlington could once again regain its Labor Day date, now at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and would not rule it out.

"I have seen a lot of things in this sport that I was surprised by," Helton said. "And that led me to believe that the future of the sport can have things happen that people say won't happen again. So you never know."

For now, Wile's busy to make sure next April brings another strong crowd.

There will be some facility tweaks next time around, Wile said, similar to projects completed for this year such as adding more reliable hot-water sources for infield shower stalls.

Darlington plans to build on its past and connect with a younger crowd, using NASCAR great Bill Elliott and his son, rising star Chase Elliott, as faces of a continuing campaign. The elder Elliott, who earned the nickname "Million Dollar Bill" when he claimed the 1985 Winston Million bonus at Darlington, is glad there's a place for Darlington on NASCAR's schedule.

"To me, this race track represents so much history in the sport, I don't people realize it," Bill Elliott said.

Wile hopes to make that happen the next 11 months. He'll expects to roll out details about Darlington's throwback 2015 race weekend throughout the year. He'll open the track for a free Fourth of July celebration with fireworks and concert acts, part of tying the track to the community year round.

"I think we hit a home run" with the Southern 500, Wile said. "There's a lot of passion for this place."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Keri Latimer looks for beauty in the dark and the spaces between the notes

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • STDUP ‚Äì Beautiful West End  begins it's summer of bloom with boulevard s, front yards  and even back lane gardens ,  coming alive with flowers , daisies and poppies  dress up a backyard lane on Camden St near Wolseley Ave  KEN GIGLIOTTI  / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  /  June 26 2012
  • MIKE.DEAL@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 110621 - Tuesday, June 21, 2011 -  Doug Chorney, president Keystone Agricultural Producers flight over South Western Manitoba to check on the condition of farming fields. MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
my2011poy

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Who are the real Bombers?

View Results

Ads by Google