Summer Time is the Right Time for Racing at Darlington
Dale Wilkerson August 2010
Fans coming in before prerace at "The Lady in Black" for the Too Tough To Tame 200 Photo by C.D. McAbee
Last week, the old girl that you know as ‘The Lady in Black’ hosted the Camping World Truck Series of NASCAR for a 200 mile race.
The garage opened early on August 14th, it was cloudy and very muggy as the crew members began their work. Engine tuners were busy looking for a little more horsepower while mechanics were changing shock absorbers in hopes of finding the perfect set-up to make the driver as comfortable as possible on the track known for reaching out and grabbing racecars, and in this case race-trucks.
Mario Gosselin and Justin Lofton Crews at work Photo by Bill Logan
Some the first crew members that I saw were members of the Make Motorsports team owned by Mark Beaver. It was good to see familiar faces, as a lot of these guys worked with Beaver’s team last year, when Petey Ivey was driving his Dirt Super Late Model.
The track was checked one final time and the trucks were released like a pack of hounds after a rabbit. Speeds quickly jumped to the 168 mph range with young Austin Dillon setting the fast time in the first practice session.
A short break allowed the drivers and the teams to change a few things before the second practice session began. Dillon raised the bar as he flirted with the 170 mph mark for an average speed. The trucks carried more speed through the corners than the Sprint Cup or Nationwide cars but no one picked up a Darlington Stripe during practice.
T.J Bell drives down Pit Lane during practice Photo by C.D. McAbee
Dillon looked to be on a pole run when his truck bounced off the wall in turn three. If he had held his line, he might have set a fast speed above 171mph but it wasn’t to be on this day.
TJ Bell timed in 18th fastest, and on my way across the track before the race I was able to speak with Team-owner Mark Beaver. “Not too bad for an old dirt slinger!” Beaver said with a chuckle. Though his young team has only competed in four races this year, they are laying the ground work to run the full schedule next season.
Many race fans took advantage of the great deals offered by Chris Browning and his staff at the Darlington Raceway. Many fans not only purchased the very affordable $25 event tickets, but the $15 pre-race pit passes. Drivers stood beside their trucks posing for pictures, shaking hands, and signing autographs for fans. The kids really got a kick out of this as many could be seen running from driver to driver collecting postcards with the driver and their truck.
The race was called the ‘Too Tough To Tame 200’ and with 16 trucks setting in the garage area before the checkered flag waved, the event lived up to its name. Several drivers cut down tires after picking up their Darlington Stripe, including TJ Bell. The Make Motorsports Team gave the truck a quick inspection when the tow truck pulled into the garage area. That inspection showed the damage to be too much to overcome.
Young drivers, Timothy Peters and Austin Dillon, along with veteran drivers Ron Hornaday and Todd Bodine, each took turns at the lead before Bodine drove away from the pack. All of these drivers had an equal view after the race.
“The lapped traffic was rough tonight. They didn’t realize just how quickly we were closing in on them,” said defending series champion Ron Hornaday.
Timothy Peters, Ron Honaday and Austin Dillon post Race Photo by C.D. McAbee
The race fans that ignored the weather forecast received a late summer treat by visiting the old girl known as the Darlington Raceway. The truck schedule has not been announced for next season but I truly hope this event is back on the schedule next season, and perhaps a little later in the summer, like Labor Day Monday.
The Camping World Truck Series and the Darlington Raceway are both known for Old School Racing, and I don’t think it could get more Old School than seeing the Trucks battling at Darlington on Labor Day Monday. I think the old girl would really like that a lot.