Darlington Speedway has had a bit of a unique identity. It’s been around for nearly a century, and it’s always been known for its open-wheel race cars and its high-intensity action at the plate race. However, over the past few years, the entire place has changed. New owners have taken over the facility, and they’ve introduced new cars, new layouts, and even new names to the famous racetrack. While there have been many changes, one thing has stayed the same: the need for speed!
Is there a jumbotron at Darlington Speedway?
When we think about Darlington Speedway, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the old-fashioned wooden grandstands and the classic image of cars flying by at top speeds. Nowadays, Darlington is quite a bit different. The grandstands have been replaced by an electronic spectator area, known as House Grandstands. Additionally, new owners have decided that the track needs a bit of a face-lift, so they’ve invested heavily in the amenities for the fans. Most notably, they’ve added a state-of-the-art jumbotron.
But while the grandstands have been replaced by electronic seating, the track itself still has a very traditional feel. There are three lanes of cars racing around a half-mile oval, and even though it’s a modernized version of the classic Darlington, there’s still a sense of nostalgia that is felt when attending a race there. Is there a Jumbotron at Darlington Speedway?
Many tracks have moved away from the wooden grandstands and towards an all-seater electronic experience. While this has reduced the cost of production and made the experience more comfortable for everyone, Darlington is still a holdout. It’s one of the last tracks to have a wooden grandstand, and it’s one of the only tracks that doesn’t have all-seater seating. As a result, it still has that small-town, Americana charm that draws in spectators from near and far.
Jumbotron Is A Unique Addition
Even before the grandstands were torn down and replaced by electronic seating, Darlington had something unique and special. When the track opened in 1924, it was the first paved oval track to be built in the United States, and it’s still the only one of its kind. What made this track so special was that it had an enormous main span — the place where the track meets the open highway — that was completely devoid of any sort of obstruction. This is because the track was built over a stream named Matlock Run, which flows directly underneath it. The creek was dammed back in the 1800s to create a mill pond, and it remains the largest such pond in the United States.
On a hot, humid day, the temperature can climb above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which poses a major safety hazard for anyone in the area. This is why the track is often closed in the summertime. However, due to its relatively remote location, it remains a hub for motorsport fans from around the country. It’s also one of the last remaining links to the golden era of American racing.
Why Are There No All-Seat Seating At Other Tracks?
While Darlington is unique for having a main span without any obstruction, many other tracks are not. The very reason that they have all-seater seating is that they were built over or adjacent to major highways, necessitating the need for safety measures such as safety rails or fences to be installed around the circuit to keep vehicles from falling off the edge. When you’re driving at speeds of up to 175mph, safety is of paramount concern.
Building an all-seater track is far more expensive than building a semi-customizable one, which is the preferred model for today’s tracks. It allows for more flexibility in terms of the types of events that can be hosted there and the amenities that can be provided for the fans.
The Naming Of The Track Is Quite Interesting
One of the other changes which has become prominent at Darlington is the way that the track is now named. For most of its history, the track was simply known as “The Speedway”, but as it became clear that the name was rather bland and unoriginal, the owners decided to give it a bit of an upgrade. They turned in a petition to the Darlington Borough Council and requested that they be allowed to name the track in honor of their native son, Alfred Charles Darlington.
The council turned down their request, but they did approve changing the name of the town’s secondary school from “Matlock Grammar School” to “Alfred Charles Darlington High School”, which would make it the first high school in the state to be named after a driver.
This is not to say that the name change has been entirely without controversy. There have been multiple protests from the Matlock Community who feel that the money which was used to retrofit the track should have been spent in the local area, and more specifically on the schools. They argue that changing the name of the track will not bring much benefit to the area as a whole, and that it will only serve to further isolate the community from the rest of society.
Ultimately, this is a matter for the track’s owners and operators to sort out, and we wish them the best of luck in doing so.
New Owners Have Moved The Goalposts
So far, we’ve discussed the changes which have been made at Darlington Speedway. Now let’s take a look at where the owner’s new vision for the track has taken it. From the introduction of new cars and new configurations to the track, it has become a Mecca for racing fans. The question is, will the changes which have been made there be enough to appease the fans who’ve been missing out on the action for so long?
The changes which have been made at Darlington have been substantial. They’ve done away with the old-fashioned wooden grandstands and the safety rails which obstructed the view of the drivers. The track now has an all-weather surface and a capacity for up to 300,000 people. Additionally, the new owners have introduced new car classes, new names for the classic vehicles, and even new rules and regulations for the drivers to follow. Let’s take a look at what the changes entail.
New Electronic Seating & New Car Classes
One of the first things which you’ll notice when entering the facility today is the extensive use of electronics. Wherever you look, there are monitors which are displaying live timing and scoring, and if you look closely, you’ll even see individual monitors for each chair. Additionally, a special screen has been set up for the drivers which displays the view from the cockpit, essentially replacing the humble jumbotron from years past.
On the racing front, the most significant change is the introduction of new car classes. For decades, the track had only three classes: Modified, Sprint Car, and Midget. The latter two were combined for the 2001 season and the Modified was disbanded, with a new class called Superformance replacing it. The reason for splitting up the car classes was that the Modifieds were the traditional workhorses of the track, and they’d served the purpose well over the years.
However, times have changed, and today’s racers demand more. They want the ability to push limits, and with the introduction of superspeeds and nitrous oxide, the need for more specialized cars has sprung up — literally! — and thus, the creation of a new class, known as Group 5, was born. This is a class in which all 5 legs of varmint racing can be found, and it’s essentially a combination of the old Modified and Sprint Car classes, with some of the unique styling and performance of the newer cars.
Additionally, because the track is situated in an area which is rich in racing history, the owners have decided to change the name of the Classic Car Club to the ALMS. The American Le Mans Series is a global motorsport series which ran its first race at Darlington in 2014, and as you might imagine, the American Automobile Club is more than a little miffed about this. As mentioned earlier, the members of the ALMS are the ones who’d petitioned the council to change the name of the track to honor their native son, and they feel that the decision was hasty and a cheap ploy by the new owners to cash in on the historic name. Let’s just say that the tension between the two groups is palpable, and it will be interesting to see which side wins out in the end.