The ‘Lady in Black.’
The ‘Track Too Tough to Tame.’
If you’re a NASCAR fan, you likely have a favorite moniker for Darlington Raceway, which joins Daytona International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway to make up one of the four ‘Crown Jewels’ of the sport.
With a unique, egg-shaped layout that favors the high-line, it’s almost a rite-of-passage to earn a famed ‘Darlington Stripe’ on the side of your race car at the South Carolina-based oval. In honor of the NASCAR Throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway, we asked our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers if they remembered getting their first Darlington stripe.
Austin Dillon, No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet
“Oh yeah! My first Cup practice. I was doing really good. I made it through about three turns, came around Turns 1 and 2 and just flattened it. The track just sucks you in. You feel like ‘Okay, I’m doing good. I can get a little bit more here,’ and all of the sudden, it will bite you. It’s a tough one to really get confident in because it will really always come back and show you who’s boss.”
Paul Menard, No. 27 Dutch Boy/Menards Chevrolet
“It was probably 2004, maybe. It was the old style cars I think and an old XFINITY Series car. We were in a test session with Andy Petree and I hit the right side. At the time we didn’t have all the crushable foam like we do now in the cars, so we left the pits to go find an old 4×4 piece of wood. I had always heard stories about them putting 4x4s in the right side of the car and we literally scrounged around until we found wood from an old sign post to put in the right side of the car. Anytime I bounced off the wall after that I could smell the wood burning.”
Ryan Newman, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet
“It took me years to get my first Darlington stripe. I think I was qualifying in 2007 or 2008 and I hit the wall two laps in a row. I’ve not hit the wall very many times there. It’s been pretty good to me. My first time going to Darlington Raceway was with Buddy Baker during a test. Buddy just took me around and showed me the line. We drove the track forwards and drove the track backward. We just looked at everything. I had to correct him a couple of times on which end Turns 1 and 2 were verses 3 and 4. That was fun. It was easy to drive those cars because they were so fast and Buddy taught me more what not to do, then what to do.”
Watch Dillon, Menard and Newman via for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 trophy during NASCAR throwback weekend on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.