You can look up and down the NASCAR Cup Series Schedule and you will not find a track that will provide as exciting racing as what will take place this weekend at Darlington Raceway.
There is nothing about the track that you can compare it to with the rest of the tracks that make up the schedule. Sure the rest of the tracks have so many modern amenities when compared to the South Carolina track that you might scratch you head why someone would choose to go there instead of hitting one of the more modern tracks that offer so much to make a fan’s day so enjoyable.
Darlington was my “first” and they say you never forget your first anything and truer words have never been spoken as it started for me a love affair with the sport that is still going strong.
My wife and some friends always went to Myrtle Beach for spring break and drove by the track for years but never stopped but for some reason the urge to stop as we drove by on our way to the coast was just too strong to keep going that day.
Nobody in the car knew anything about the sport except the rundown we would watch on ABC’s Wide World of Sport on Saturday, so that led us into the ticket office with a thousand questions.
I wish I could remember her name as one of the ladies working there (she reminded me of aunt) said that she wanted to walk us into the track to look around. We all jumped at the offer and before long we were standing in the grandstands and she was telling us about the crowd and just how much fun was going to be taking place the following Sunday.
When we asked if there were still tickets, she just told us to pick out where we wanted to sit and we would go back to the office and she would get them for us. So for fifteen dollars apiece we had what we thought were the best seats in the house and could not wait to get back there.
Before we left on our way, she walked us to our car and gave us some hints on what we needed for race day and what time to get there.
Basically her instructions were a bucket of chicken a loaf of Sunbeam bread, a small cooler of our favorite beverage, sun glasses and suntan lotion if we burned easily.
Suddenly we couldn’t enjoy the beach once we got there because we were going to become official NASCAR fans the following Sunday and we had to get our “supplies”.
I can honestly say that I did know more about the sport than anyone in the car, if knowing Richard Petty was the King was all you needed to know before going to your first race.
It turned out that I needed to know more but as I put on that bright orange and blue STP hat that I bought as soon as we got there then I was the go to guy for all your race day information.
We had our bucket of the Colonel’s chicken, the loaf of Sunbeam bread and the coolest pair of sun glasses that was for sale at Myrtle Beach. What we didn’t know was that you were sitting on a concrete slab, a race is very loud and that it was hard to keep up with who was leading.
To say we stuck out in the hard core crowd was putting it mildly but we found out that race fans are the friendliest people you ever will meet and they gave us a play by play what was going on.
We also found out that we didn’t need the chicken and bread and we were offered more food than we could ever eat. Richard Petty didn’t win that day but Harry Gant and as one of my new friends told me drove a Buick called the Skoal Bandit took the checkered flag.
It was only 367 laps but it was the day that started my wife and me on this long journey of following the sport.
Since then we have watched races in sky boxes, celebrated in victory lane and head to Daytona Beach every February for Speedweeks but we always at some point talk about that day in Darlington. That was our first and in so many ways it was the way the sport may have been intended to be watched and enjoyed.