Even in the depth of the recession and record high jobless rates, DarlingtonRace officials hope to have another sellout, before Saturday’s Southern 500. Fewer than 5,000 tickets remain unsold. That would be the fifth straight sellout since the track leaders rejuvenated attendance by installing lights so they could hold a night race just before Mother’s Day.
Race qualifying has already begun this afternoon. The Diamond Hill 200 takes place tonight, featuring a lot of the Sprint Cup drivers, a shorter race which promoters say is great for children.
Darlington President Chris Browning says in previous months, ticket sales were slower than the same time last year, but that quickly changed a few weeks ago. “Actually our daily sales over the last two weeks have exceeded our daily sales above last year on the same days. I think it’s a product of the current economic times and the environment we’re in. Fans still want to attend our event. They ‘re just waiting longer to buy tickets.”
Browning says this year’s race is expected to generate more than $54 million for the Pee Dee economy and the state of South Carolina. Officials at the Darlington Chamber of Commerce say a lot businesses, including gas stations, restaurants and motels, have been hanging on for the needed cash that the race always brings.
In addition, Browning says the race is broadcast all over the world and is a great advertisement for the Palmetto State. “Historically, and for this race, we’ve already topped this. We’re already selling tickets in all 50 states. And we’re up to sales in 12 foreign countries, and that’s pretty typical for weekend races here at Darlington.”
This is the Darlington’s track’s 60th anniversary year.
Officials have cut the price of some tickets by $10 this year, and reduced the price at the concession stand. The stands hold 62,000 spectators.