DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) - Darlington Raceway will soon be under new ownership as NASCAR works to complete a $2 billion merger agreement with the International Speedway Corporation that could help save America’s most popular racing series.
Through the sale, NASCAR would acquire 12 new race tracks, putting them in control of 15 total throughout the country, including the sport’s second oldest track, Darlington Raceway.
While raceways like Darlington have been asked not to comment on the details of the deal just yet, Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp believes the sport is heading in a positive direction.
“I think NASCAR has done a really good job the last few years of trying to reconnect with its fans,” said Tharp.
Much like baseball, NASCAR is going through a major transition trying to get more fans in the stands and drawing younger eyes to the sport to boost TV ratings.
“I think NASCAR has been very wise and very strategic to try to get those fans that left the sport for a while, maybe try to get them back,” said Tharp.
The deal is expected give NASCAR more flexibility to move around certain race dates, however Tharp said he expects the Bojangles Southern 500 to continue running Labor Day weekend.
NASCAR officials said in a statement, “We look forward to the successful final resolution of this matter and continuing our work to grow this sport and deliver great racing experiences for our fans everywhere."
With control of the tracks, NASCAR could explore the option of fewer races throughout the season.
Tharp said Darlington Raceway has always had a great working relationship with NASCAR.
“It seems like everyone is wanting to come together for a common goal of putting on a first-class event that our fans are thrilled to attend,” said Tharp.
Owner of the Raceway Grill and Darlington native, Tony Baird, has high hopes for this year’s race weekend featuring Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“For me here at the grill, it’s tremendous. That weekend our business over a five-day period is about what we usually do in a month,” said Tony Baird.
As a long time race fans themselves, both Tharp and Baird hope this $2 billion dollar deal gives NASCAR the boost it needs.
“I’m very excited about where we’ve come but now I’m more excited about where we’re going,” said Tharp.
NASCAR’s five-year agreement with the race tracks ends after the 2020 season and the merger is expected to officially close by the end of the year.