NASCAR truck series returning to Darlington

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Chris Browning is hoping the return of NASCAR's truck series to Darlington Raceway this summer will lead to a longer run than the last time.

 

Darlington officials announced Wednesday that the track would hold the "Too Tough To Tame" 200 on the night of Aug. 14. Set up, inspection, qualifying and the race will all take place that Saturday, Browning told The Associated Press.

"It's going to be a neat deal," said Browning, the president of the raceway.

Browning and his staff had sought to bring the truck series back to Darlington for several years, given the area's long history of NASCAR racing and its love of pickups.

Darlington had initially tried to attach a truck race to its Southern 500 show over Mother's Day weekend. However, schedules had never worked out, Browning said.

Darlington got an opening when the truck series decided not to run at Milwaukee this year, and Browning pounced on the chance to light up the track for a second event.

"Number one, the competition is great. The guys are so hungry and they race so hard," he said. "The other is that people in our area can really relate to trucks."

Browning said that was the case in the early 2000s when the trucks rolled for four seasons at the egg-shaped oval. The late Bobby Hamilton won the truck race here in 2001 and 2003. Ted Musgrave won in 2002, and Sprint Cup star Kasey Kahne was a rookie in 2004 when he took the checkered flag in Darlington's first-ever night race.

"I think it will be awesome for the Truck Series to go back to Darlington," said Ron Hornaday, last year's series champion.

Hornaday said racers like Hamilton and Musgrave regularly put on a strong show for fans.

"Traditionally, Darlington has been one of those places that have close finishes which the truck series is known for," Hornaday said. "I'm excited to go there."

It'll be a different, downsized Darlington drivers come back to.

The track, nicknamed "The Lady In Black," had hosted two Sprint Cup races a year from 1960 through 2004, including the Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend. In NASCAR's schedule realignment, that slot was assigned to California and Darlington got the Saturday night before Mother's Day for its lone Sprint Cup date.

Darlington has made a good run out of what some had thought was a dead weekend, gaining sellouts of 63,000 from 2005 to 2008 and coming fewer than 5,000 shy of a fifth straight full house last May.

The track also went though a repaving before the 2008 Southern 500. The asphalt is still new enough to bother racers who haven't driven there recently.

"It is great to go back to Darlington Raceway, one of the most historic tracks in NASCAR," said series director Wayne Auton. "The trucks have had great races there in the past and fans will definitely get their money's worth."

Browning doesn't see why the trucks can't be a yearly happening for Darlington.

The date comes before the start of school - children 12 and under can attend for free - and before the region turns its attention to college football.

"If it all works out, we'd like to stay with that. It gives us another weekend to be running here," Browning said. "It could be the perfect schedule for us."

Track donates lifetime tickets to SC family

DARLINGTON, S.C. - A South Carolina family featured on an ABC TV show got a second home from Darlington Raceway as well.

Track officials donated lifetime tickets for the Southern 500 to the Derrick and Amanda Suggs and their children this week. The Loris family will also receive a VIP experience from the track this spring, including passes to the NASCAR pits, hospitality tents and Victory Lane.

The Suggs had a home built for them by volunteers, including NASCAR star Jeff Gordon, on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

Besides tickets for the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races this spring, the Suggs' family also got a piece of Darlington's start-finish line.

Track president Chris Browning said Darlington will be proud to host the Suggs family for many years to come.

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