Known as the track “Too Tough to Tame,” Darlington Raceway is legendary for many reasons — not the least of which is the challenge it poses to veteran drivers and relative newcomers alike. Unlike most tracks, the preferred and fastest way around Darlington is the top groove — right up next to the wall — and as a result, many drivers won’t be able to make it 500 miles around the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval without multiple collisions with the concrete slab just inches to their right.
“Darlington is a track that is known for its old, worn-out surface and how hard it is on tires,” said playoff driver William Byron, who is still seeking his first Cup win at the South Carolina venue. “You’re always elbows up at that place, but you also have to know when to press forward and when to manage your equipment so you’re not over taxing your tires. I’ve tried to manage that as best as I can, but that’s what makes Darlington such a tough track. It’s not an easy task while, at the same time, it’s easy to lose focus for a moment, and that’s all it takes to end your day.”
Alex Bowman, one of Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates, has a similar perspective on the site of this weekend’s playoff opener. “Darlington is one of those tracks where you can’t get caught up in racing the other guys,” Bowman said. “This is a place where you have to race the track and adjust your car to what you need on track. Tire management is key in Darlington and will be something to look after on Sunday.”