NASCAR's oldest track getting makeover

Updated: April 5, 2007, 11:02 AM ET
By Marty Smith | ESPN.com

If the historic facelift International Speedway Corp. officials approved Wednesday for Darlington Raceway is any indication, NASCAR's oldest paved speedway won't be losing its Nextel Cup date anytime soon.

Darlington Raceway will receive a $10 million upgrade starting in mid-June, the largest one-time capital investment in the track's 58-year history, track officials said Thursday.

"There's nothing that said they had to do any of that," track president Chris Browning said Thursday. "That speaks volumes about the future of Darlington."

Scheduled projects include repaving the track surface and aprons, as well as the addition of concrete pit stalls. A new infield access tunnel, large enough to accommodate the teams' 18-wheel transporters, will be constructed at the west end of the track.

The facelift also includes renovations to luxury suites and additional fan parking areas. Browning said those upgrades will be completed in time for the May 12 Dodge Avenger 500. The track and pit road renovations will begin mid-June.

"I think that this shows the commitment our company has to this racetrack," Browning said. "If you really look at the scope of what they approved, the track surface was really what needed attention.

"But they took it to the next level and we're doing not only the surface, but aprons and pit stalls, and redoing pit road and adding an enlarged tunnel. Those things outside of the track surface are probably a good bit of that $10 million."

This is the second consecutive year that ISC Darlington has approved a landmark upgrade for Darlington's facilities. Last year the track was granted $6 million to construct the Brasington Tower grandstand in Turn 1.

Browning said track officials hope to install a multiyear plan that will enable them to conceptualize projects for the next five years.

"That's a big thing for us," Browning said. "Many great things lie ahead for Darlington Raceway, and we are tremendously excited about what the future holds in store."

Darlington was last repaved in the fall of 1995. The first race run on the new pavement was in the spring of 1996, a race for which Ward Burton won the pole with a record speed of 173.797 mph. That record stands to this day.

The track solicited input on the upcoming repaving project from several current drivers, including an hourlong session with Jeff Gordon during his Car of Tomorrow test last month, and Jeff Burton. Track officials also met with team owners and engineers and representatives from NASCAR and the Goodyear Tire Company.

Marty Smith covers Nextel Cup racing for ESPN.com.