Darlington Raceway preps for surge of NASCAR fans

Darlington, SC - DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) - The Darlington Raceway and businesses close to the track are getting ready to welcome thousands of race fans to the Pee Dee over Mother's Day weekend.

On Tuesday, track employees were busy getting everything ready for the Southern 500 on Saturday night. Workers could be seen moving fences, coating facilities with fresh paint and getting concession stands in order.

While workers were making final preparations inside of the track, a handful of vendors were setting up shop around the perimeter of the Darlington Raceway.

"I'm hoping it's real busy," said Vickey Long, who has worked the NASCAR circuit for eight years. "You meet a lot of interesting people."

Officials at Darlington say they expect the surrounding area and the track to get busier as Saturday approaches. It's an event they have planned for all year.

"[We] kind of kicked into high gear. For the past couple of weeks, we've been selling a lot of tickets and we have a lot of people moving in and getting ready for the Showtime Southern 500," said Jacob Harris, spokesman for the Darlington Raceway. "It's an atmosphere you can't beat. It's a night race and we've got a great weather forecast for the weekend."

That great forecast is what some hope will bring droves of people out to the track to spend money. The annual race at Darlington is estimated to pump more than $54 million into the state's economy, most of which circulates around the Pee Dee region.

Harris says, however, other areas benefit from the event, including hotels at the beach. He says the new Mother's Day race tradition now involves people who bring mom to South Carolina for a vacation.

"It's kind of a grand finale for a beach vacation, so you know it connects the Pee Dee area and the beach. There's a lot for everybody at Darlington Raceway, and make a vacation out of it if you can't beat that," Harris said.

The Southern 500 takes center stage at Darlington on Saturday evening, closing out the weekend that kicks off with Friday's Royal Purple 200.

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