In the fall of 1949, Harold Brasington had a vision of turning an old cotton field in Darlington into a paved superspeedway for stock car racing. That vision became a reality one year later as Darlington Raceway hosted its first race on Labor Day of 1950.
Brasington and his partners expected a crowd of around 8,000 for that first race, and when more than 25,000 fans showed up, it was the start of a love affair with the Lady in Black that has been going strong ever since.
In 2019, Darlington Raceway will celebrate the 70th running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500.
Over the span of seven decades, this race has become one of NASCAR’s “crown jewels” and has established itself as one of the premier sporting events in the state of South Carolina. Fans from all 50 states and 14 foreign countries descend upon Darlington each Labor Day to attend the race weekend and visit the track that has been dubbed “Too Tough to Tame.”
The annual economic impact that the race weekend realizes is enormous, with nearly a $65 million yearly impact on the state, including better than a $58 million annual impact on the Pee Dee region.
When it was announced that Darlington’s spot on the NASCAR calendar would return to Labor Day weekend beginning in 2015, there was a rousing round of applause from the racing faithful. Darlington and Labor Day had been a staple on the NASCAR schedule and the state of South Carolina’s calendar for more than 50 years, and at last there was a return to normalcy.
Darlington and Labor Day go together like peanut butter and jelly. You can’t have one without the other.
The return to Labor Day included another important twist. The wise folks at International Speedway Corporation, along with NASCAR officials, also had a vision about what Darlington’s race weekend could mean for the industry. Why not create a “throwback” weekend honoring the former heroes, Hall of Famers and legends of the sport, which would include retro paint schemes, retro uniforms, and other nostalgic elements? What better venue to showcase the sport’s past, present and future than Darlington Raceway?
Under the direction of former Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile, Darlington’s 2015 Labor Day Throwback Weekend was a huge success and laid the groundwork for the continued development of the platform. Shortly thereafter, the weekend was ratified as the “Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR.” In four short years, the throwback theme has taken the sport by storm and helped re-energize the entire industry with its reunion-like atmosphere.
In 2019, Darlington Raceway will celebrate the 1990-94 era. It will honor the legendary David Pearson and recognize the 70th running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500. In addition, Dale Earnhardt Jr., the 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award recipient who retired from full-time racing two years ago, will be behind the wheel of the No. 8 Chevrolet for the Aug. 31 running of the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200. It will be Dale Jr.’s only on-track racing appearance of the entire season and will be a race that fans won’t want to miss.
On March 26 of this year, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series schedule was announced and for the sixth straight year, the Darlington event will once again be held over Labor Day Weekend. The 71st running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 will take place on Sunday, Sept. 6, and it will be the first race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. This is great news for our fans, our community and the state of South Carolina.
Darlington Raceway invites you to experience its 2019 Throwback Weekend Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Tickets are on sale by calling 1-866-459-RACE or by visiting darlingtonraceway.com. The Lady in Black promises to provide plenty of exciting racing action conducted against the backdrop of the sport’s rich heritage and tradition.