As I pulled into Petty Boulevard I could see the immense track beyond. I had made it to this legendary track to see the raceway’s museum.
Darlington is probably the toughest of the high banked raceways on the NASCAR circuit. Drivers would often leave with a “Darlington Stripe” on the right side of their race car from rubbing on the wall at speeds in excess of 200 mph.
Outside was the pace car known as “the Lady in Black”. It is a stunning black Camaro that sits out in front of the museum so that anyone can take a close up look.
Once into the gift shop and paying for my entrance ticket I headed for the gate that would let me in the museum itself.
The first cars to greet me were a pair of classics from the very early days of Stock Car racing. In those days a racer might as often as not buy a car off the showroom floor and change the tires and spark plugs and go racing. That is just what Johnny Mantz did in 1950. Even though he qualified slowest of the field of seventy-five cars he made his way to the lead by lap 50 and won the 400 lap race on the 1.25 mile Darlington circuit.
The Hudson Hornet was an amazing car of its day. Hudson dropped the body low on the frame giving it a low center of gravity and made the most powerful flat-head V8 ever. With its “Twin-H Power” the 7X engine and the Hudsons dominated stock car racing in the early 1950’s.
Here is one of the blue Plymouths that Richard Petty dominated the series with in 1967.
It wasn’t long before clever mechanics found ways to bend an stretch the rules to give their driver an edge. Here is a hood constructed of fiberglass and aluminum by the famous Smokey Yunick that was seized by the officials.
Fred Lorenzen’s team hid this tank with a couple of extra gallons of fuel behind the dash. One of many ways that clever teams would find an unfair advantage.
The Penske team tried its hand at NASCAR with American Motor’s cars.
This is all that is left of Darrell Waltrip’s car that slid into the infield and tumbled at least six times before coming to a halt. Darrell walked away with minor injuries. Lucky guy.
This is the area dedicated to “hall of fame” members. People from all areas of stock car racing and NASCAR are represented here.
After the tour of the museum I had to get a look at the track itself. I was directed to a gate where I could walk up a ramp to the end of the track where a large banked corner was.
The catch fencing has to deal with heavy cars hitting it a some unbelievable speeds and still containing the aftermath. Just look at how substantial it is.
If you’ve ever wondered just what it takes to make a race track that can handle these brutes here is a cross-section removed the last time the track was resurfaced.
Just think of the G-forces that the track has to sustain and keep from rolling up like a carpet.
Darlington is an amazing raceway with a lot of history to it. Remember that the next time you are in South Carolina.