Clinton, S.C., Thursday, April 10, 2014, 5:33 p.m.
Darlington Raceway is my favorite track. This is only in part because it is great, though it undeniably is. It has to do with it being the place where my daddy took me over and over, and with being a South Carolinian because my native state is, like Darlington, rife with contradiction.
Whoever heard of a race track that was shaped like an egg?
Comparatively speaking, other tracks have straightaways. Darlington has sidewalks. The asphalt is theoretically wide, but very little of it is usable. Little of its water is potable, so to speak. The groove is little more than, well, the track.
Darlington is the only track that always gives me something to watch, which makes watching it on TV awful because I only see what TV chooses to show me, and, respectfully, that is most often not what I want to see.
Darlington is complex and hard to understand in an age when most fans don’t care to pay attention, so busy are they with their portable devices.
Yet I don’t want to go there anymore. It’s not much more than a two-hour drive from my house. Even though I love it more than any other track, the last couple years I covered its races, I commuted back and forth. Why? Because, as a writer, Darlington is one 1.366-mile pain in the ass. It is The Track Too Tough To Cover.
The last thing anyone in NASCAR wants to encourage is the watching of its races from the press box, probably because those who watch from the press box might see things that aren’t on TV. Darlington features a unique press box that offers a breathtaking view of the wrong side of the track. Pit road and the start-finish line cannot be seen from the press box.
The front and back straights were flip-flopped in 1997, but no more convenient press box has ever been constructed. Not too long ago, it was a fairly simple matter to hike over from the opposite side and cross the track, but then they closed that gate and built a new tunnel, only they didn’t allow anyone to drive through it, which, in turn, meant one could spend a half hour trying to snake through the mass of infield humanity in a car, or walk around the entire outside of the track – infield media center, inside of turn one, to press box, outside of three – and thus expend valuable time either way.
Which I still did, because I’m that much of a press-box stickler and I love Darlington so much.
Now that I don’t write about racing for a living, life is too short for that.