Darlington Raceway: A visual throwback of a NASCAR icon

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Darlington Raceway is one of NASCAR’s iconic tracks.

Built by Harold Brasington and opened in 1950, the 1.366-mile egg-shaped track has long been known for colorful nicknames – “The Lady In Black” and the “Track Too Tough To Tame” – for the difficulty drivers have had in racing and winning there.

A driver doesn’t become a true member of the Darlington fraternity until they earn a “Darlington stripe” for sideswiping the track’s outside retaining wall.

Now, after an absence of more than a decade, Darlington’s trademark race, the Southern 500, returns to its former Labor Day weekend tradition, one that ran from the track’s first race on Sept. 4, 1950, until August 31, 2003. (There was a Southern 500 in 2004, but it was on Nov. 14.)

Sunday’s race will be the 112th Sprint Cup event held at Darlington. One of the most noteworthy decades in track and Southern 500 history was the 1970s, which we flash back to with the following photos:

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Buddy Baker came into the 1970 Southern 500 bound and determined to go to Victory Lane. One day later (photo below), he’d fulfill his goal. (Photo by ISC Archives via Getty Images).

 

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Buddy Baker (far right) piloted the Cotton Owens-prepared winged Dodge Daytona to the Southern 500 victory on Sept. 7, 1970. It was a significant accomplishment for Baker, as his father Buck won the Southern 500 three times in his own racing career. Buddy’s win marked the first time in Darlington history that a father and son had both won there. Sadly, the man known as “The Gentle Giant” passed away last month at the age of 74. (Photo by ISC Archives via Getty Images).

 

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Wearing their Coca-Cola uniforms, Bobby Allison’s pit crew goes to work on his car during the 1972 Southern 500 at Darlington. After finishing seventh in the Rebel 400 earlier that season, Allison won the Southern 500 in September. (Photo by ISC Images and Archives via Getty Images)

 

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Cale Yarborough sits atop his Junior Johnson-owned Holly Farms Poultry Chevrolet before the 1975 Southern 500 at Darlington. Even though he would finish 19th in this particular race, Yarborough would win five Southern 500s in his career. (Photo by ISC Images and Archives via Getty Images)

 

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This is a scene repeated hundreds of times over the years – what happens when a driver tries to tame the “Track Too Tough To Tame” and comes up on the losing end. (Photo courtesy of Darlington Historical Commission)

 

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On Sept. 6, 1976, David Pearson won the first of three Southern 500 titles he claimed in his career. But that’s just part of the story: From 1970-80, the Silver Fox won nine times in a 21-race span at Darlington (and a track record 10 wins overall in his career). In addition, the 1976 Southern 500 was one of 10 races Pearson won that season. Pearson would go on to be the the second-winningest driver in NASCAR history with 105 wins. Richard Petty holds the record with 200 career wins. (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

 

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Boogity, boogity, boogity. Yep, that’s Darrell Waltrip back in 1977. Waltrip would win five times at Darlington, but just one of those would be a Southern 500 triumph (1992). (Photo by ISC Archives via Getty Images)

 

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David Pearson started the 1979 season running five of the first eight Winston Cup races for the Wood Brothers before parting ways after the Rebel 500 at Darlington. He ran just four more races that year for car owner Rod Osterlund, filling in for Dale Earnhardt, and won the Southern 500. (Photo by ISC Archives via Getty Images)

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