Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp Eager To Host The Return Of Mother’s Day NASCAR Weekendby Hunter Thomas May 4, 2021 0 comments
DARLINGTON, S.C. – Last May, Darlington Raceway hosted NASCAR’s first race back since the industry paused for COVID-19, and come this weekend, the track Too Tough To Tame will host its rejuvenated Mother’s Day weekend and be the first facility since the pandemic to allow guests in the garage area and on pit road.
Darlington Raceway hosted a Mother’s Day weekend from 2005 to 2013, but with the exception of the unique 2020 schedule that was shaken up by COVID-19, the track hasn’t hosted two NASCAR Cup Series weekends in a season since 2004, when Jimmie Johnson swept both races; however, thanks to the success of last year’s events and the voices of the fans, NASCAR has returned the Mother’s Day weekend race, which is now named the Goodyear 400, back to the Lady in Black.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Darlington Raceway President, Kerry Tharp. “Having the opportunity to have two race dates back is truly a blessing. It’s a tribute to our fans who have been coming out for years and supporting the track. Certainly, us being able to put live sports back out there last year in May, when NASCAR decided to come back racing here at Darlington on May 17th, was a real blessing for us to land this second race date. Clearly the support that we have from the governor goes a long way for us being able to get two race dates back. It’s very exciting to know that we’re racing Mother’s Day weekend and Labor Day weekend.”
Just like last year, Darlington Raceway will once again be making NASCAR history. NASCAR is allowing VIP guests and additional industry personnel into the media center, garage area and pit road this weekend for the first time since early 2020. Now that the COVID-19 vaccines have been widely distributed, NASCAR is easing back to more normal operations. All guests with garage and pit road access this weekend will have been fully vaccinated, and in the grandstands, Darlington Raceway will have about 35% capacity, which is quite a good bit more than what was allowed during last year’s Cook Out Southern 500 in September.
“It’s great knowing that we’re able to expand the footprint some,” Tharp said. “Knowing that NASCAR is going to allow us to do that and the teams to do that. I think little-by-little, I think things are going back to how we like to see them and get more access in the sport and being able to have more fans in the stands and certainly more people back in the garage area.”
As NASCAR heads to Darlington Raceway, the momentum of the competition is full throttle. In 11 races this season, the NASCAR Cup Series has seen 10 different winners, Kyle Busch becoming the most recent with his win at Kansas Speedway. What makes this event even more exciting is that Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin who have found success at Darlington over the years are still winless this season. Will the series see one of the regular Darlington front-runners in Victory Lane, will there be a repeat winner, or as we’ve seen so far this year, will there be a winner who is considered an upset? Looking back at Darlington Raceway’s history, any of the scenarios are possible. One aspect that will make the Goodyear 400 so exciting is that it will be run during the afternoon with a 3:30 p.m. start time. That means the track surface will get slick from the rubber and heat of the day, so look for the drivers to be sliding around the 1.366-mile track as they try to avoid earning a Darlington Stripe.
“The competition is about as good as I’ve seen,” Tharp said. “The level playing field so to speak. Ten different winners in the first 11 races, I can’t even recall that appearing in a long, long time. Having those different winners winning so far, and then you look at the list of drivers who haven’t won yet. You look at Harvick and Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch. All of the sudden, you’re thinking to yourself, this is going to be pretty cool to see how things unfold during the course of the season. I think the competition right now is just about as good as we’ve seen.”
Since last season, Darlington Raceway has added new partners. For the first time, LiftKits4Less.com will be sponsoring Friday night’s 200.8-mile NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, and Steakhouse Elite will serve as the entitlement sponsor for Saturday afternoon’s 199.92-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race. Darlington Raceway has also added PROOF Alcoholic Ice Cream and Dead On Tools as partners. Even as the industry still feels the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Darlington Raceway is continuing to add partners to its facility.
“The list keeps growing, so being able to have these new partners involved with us, I think bodes well for the future,” Tharp said.
While this weekend may still have its challenges due to COVID-19, NASCAR is taking steps in the right direction, and Tharp would like for the fans to know that it was their voices that helped the historic track regain its second race date.
“I just want them (fans) to know how thankful we are for them and how much we appreciate them,” Tharp said. “They’re the real reason we’re having two race dates, because of their enthusiasm and support. We’re going to do all we can to make sure they have a great time.”
Tickets for all three of NASCAR’s national series events this weekend still have tickets available. Visit https://www.darlingtonraceway.com/Ticket-Central/Spring-Weekend.aspx to purchase your tickets today.