Inside Darlington's distinctive design

January 05, 2015,

Earn your stripes by finding out the method behind it

The unique, oblong layout of Darlington (S.C.) Raceway was made by design in 1949, a year before it welcomed NASCAR's big leagues for its first 500-mile race. How it happened is no small fish tale, in a manner of speaking.

When Harold Brasington purchased 70 acres of land from farm owner Sherman Ramsey for the site of NASCAR's first superspeedway, there was one condition -- Ramsey requested that the minnow pond on his property not be disturbed. The result was a set of turns on one end of the track that was tighter than the opposite end, which gives the track its distinctive egg shape.

The abstract layout continues to challenge NASCAR drivers and crew chiefs alike, some 60-plus years after its debut. Among the track’s many traditions is the "Darlington Stripe," a black tire mark created from cars’ frequent brushes along the outside retaining wall.

Kyle Petty -- who had a history of futility on the 1.366-mile track, with zero top-five finishes in 51 Cup starts at Darlington -- famously quipped in an ESPN interview after a crash that the track would be better served to be filled with water for bass fishing. Had that unlikely conversion ever happened, Petty would have had a ready source for bait in Ramsey's pond.