DARLINGTON, S.C. -- What's new at Darlington Raceway? Well, not much of anything -- and that's the way several NASCAR drivers like it.
From the Brasington Grandstand on the backstretch to the cement-block infield concession stands, history is everywhere at the 52-year-old track.
"I like that there's no pretty suites, it's just the racetrack," said Jeff Burton, twice a Darlington winner. "That's pretty cool."
There have been several improvements since Harold Brasington bulldozed an oddly shaped oval out of some Darlington County farmland to get "The Track Too Tough To Tame" into the 21st century. But no one's confusing this country track with gleaming new layouts in Las Vegas, Texas or Chicago.
"Even the new garages here don't look like new garages," said Burton, who was testing for this week's Carolina Dodge Dealers 400. "It's nice to go somewhere where the stuff doesn't look all fancy and cool like all the other racetracks. And I think that's OK."
Darlington's history and reputation as "The Track Too Tough To Tame" keeps the drivers revved up about returning. The track's age and relatively smaller capacity to other Winston Cup raceways -- officials jam about 80,000 in for the Southern 500 each Labor Day weekend -- make it the annual topic of NASCAR contraction.
The latest fears came about a year ago when then-Darlington president Jim Hunter left to become NASCAR's spokesman. However, track president Andrew Gurtis said he's secure the venue will remain a two-race layout down the road.
"This is a premier NASCAR track and that's what we're going to play upon," Gurtis said.
You don't have to sell that to the drivers.
"I think this has a place in our sport for the reminder of the heritage and tradition," said Burton, who recalled his family, including older brother, Ward, traveling from their Virginia home to the Darlington races.
Ward Burton has won twice at Darlington, including last year's Southern 500.
"I told Ward last year, 'OK, you had won at Darlington before, but now you've won the Southern 500 and that's moves you up even higher in my eyes,"' Jeff Burton said.
Balancing tradition with the modern amenities that fans expect can be difficult, Gurtis said.
Darlington cannot raze its stands for new luxury towers. Improvement comes in small steps, Gurtis said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.