NASCAR returns to traditional Darlington home for Labor Day weekend – SportingNews.com

DARLINGTON, S.C. — Following a week off, NASCAR turns its sights on its next big holiday weekend. And NASCAR has returned to its roots, putting the Labor Day weekend race back in its traditional home at Darlington Raceway.

“It’s been a tradition in our sport for so long,” Darlington Raceway president Chip Wile said. “It went away for 11 years, but kudos to NASCAR for really working hard and recognizing how important Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway is to our sport.”

From 1950-2003, the Southern 500 was held on Labor Day weekend. It was moved to November in 2004 before a nine-year stretch on Mother’s Day weekend and an April run last year. NASCAR announced last August that the Sunday night race would be held on Labor Day weekend in Darlington in 2015.

“Regardless of the date, this place is so special to our NASCAR community, to our fans and to our sport,” Wile said. “This is the Wrigley Field of NASCAR. There have been so many hall-of-fame drivers who have won here and some who haven’t. This is one of three or four race tracks on the circuit that drivers really want to win at because of how important it is to the sport. It’s grown up with the sport.”

Considered by most drivers to be one of NASCAR’s four majors, along with the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the Coca-Cola 600, moving the Southern 500 back to Labor Day falls in line with the traditional dates of majors in other sports — like the Masters in April or Wimbledon in late June. And the biggest NASCAR races also have traditional and significant dates. The Daytona 500 is held every year in February to begin the NASCAR season. Memorial Day weekend brings with it the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. NASCAR traditionally returns to Daytona on Independence Day weekend.

“It started as a regional Southern sport to where it is now as one of the most popular sports in the United States,” Wile said. “It’s important we recognize how important the racetrack is to our community.

“Our weekend generates a significant economic impact and we’re really proud of that. It’s a huge economic driver for the state of South Carolina. Certainly having more fans in the stands around for Labor Day weekend will be great.”

The track was designed by Harold Brasington, who in May was posthumously awarded the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Darlington Raceway — known as the “Lady in Black” and the “The Track Too Tough to Tame” — is one of the most renowned tracks on the circuit.

“It’s an honor to come to work here every day,” said Wile, who was mentored earlier in his career by former Darlington president Jim Hunter. “To show up here every day at this place, there’s a lot of responsibility to build on the history and heritage of this place.”

Wile, the Darlington president since 2013, said making the announcement locally that the Bojangles Southern 500 was moving back to Labor Day weekend was the best day of his career.

“It’s finally back where it belongs,” Wile said. “You can feel the energy around our weekend. It’s so funny how important dates are. On Labor Day weekend, if you’re a race fan, you think about coming to Darlington for the Southern 500. They’re synonymous. NASCAR’s got it right and we’re in a good spot.”

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