How Big Is Darlington Speedway? [Updated!]

When it comes to motorsport venues, few cities are as famous as Darlington, North Carolina. Inaugurated in 1914, the half-mile banked oval served as the primary location for the World’s Greatest Championship Car Races from 1935 until 2001, attracting fans from around the world. In 2019, Darlington Speedway and its museum remain as busy as ever, attracting visitors from near and far.

A Trackside Tour

With the 2019 season now underway, it’s the right time for a trackside tour of the legendary half-mile oval! If you’ve never been there, now might be the perfect opportunity to visit; the track remains open throughout the year, and is located just minutes from both the airport and downtown Durham.

Darlington’s rich history is on full display in its grandstands and pits, as well as the infield. If possible, be there during a race to experience all of the action from all sides.

The History Lesson

While today’s fans flock to Darlington to witness the great racing action, it wasn’t always this way. The track formerly known as Darlington Race Course, was renamed in honor of the town’s pioneer railroad industry in 1914. The following year saw the first race meet on the freshly laid asphalt, with the World’s Most Famous Half-Mile Race drawing approximately 40,000 spectators.

The popularity of the track grew steadily over the years, as did the size of the crowd. In 1939, over 100,000 people attended the big race, which was actually held on a Sunday due to nationwide sports tournaments on the weekend. As World War II drew nearer, many of Darlington’s wealthy citizens saw their engagement in social activities and sports as a way to contribute to the war effort. Professional football returned to the area in 1946, and the track saw an influx of both spectators and car owners.

Even after the races moved to Oakwood in 1971, the track remained popular. The World All-Pro Football Team was formed in part based on the performances of the players during the annual Labor Day Classic. The popularity of the event also helped to attract motorsport fans, as well as celebrities and royalty from around the world.

In 2018, after years of declining attendance and revenue, Darlington Speedway announced a renovation plan. The grandstands and dugouts will be restored to their original designs, and the speedway has plans to improve its hospitality by adding new areas for fans to enjoy. When complete, the renovations will increase the track’s capacity by 25%. We’ll have more details as the project progresses.

The Present Day

For much of the year, Darlington is a quiet place, with only a few cars and trucks rolling around on its smooth asphalt. However, that all changed in August 2019, when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour visited for the Sylvania 300. Over 20,000 people came out to support their local cars and drivers, causing traffic jams and fanning the flames of a downtown Durham revival.

The event drew international attention, with fans traveling from England, France, and Germany to attend the big race. If you’ve never been there, this year might be the perfect opportunity to visit – especially if you’re a car or motorsport enthusiast. You’ll have the chance to see some of the greatest racers in history take the track, and you won’t want to miss a single second.

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