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Chase for the Championship races directly through Darlington

Darlington, SC - (January 20, 2004)  It's official: The old adage maintaining that "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" has been proven false. Darlington Raceway is a perfect example.

Much of the racing world was surprised by a summer 2003 realignment announcement stating that the Mountain Dew Southern 500, NASCAR's most historic event, would relinquish its 54-year traditional Labor Day weekend running for a more temperate November date in 2004.

Then, in August, Darlington Raceway announced plans for installation of a facility lighting system, and the date of its first night race. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will give fans their first look at Darlington "under the lights" on Friday, November 12.

Now, an announcement by NASCAR on January 20 has positioned the Mountain Dew Southern 500 as the ninth in a new, 10-race end-of-season championship run, the ultimate line in the sand between a competitor's will to win and the NEXTEL Cup Series championship trophy.

The track "Too Tough To Tame" just added a new set of teeth.

The modified system will cover the final 10 races of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season. After the first 26 races, all drivers in the NASCAR Top 10 and any other drivers within 400 points of the leader will earn a spot in what has been named the "Chase for the Championship."

All drivers in the chase will have their point totals adjusted. The first-place driver in the standings will begin the chase with 5,050 points. The second-place drive will start with 5,045, and incremental five-point drops will continue through the list of title contenders.

Additionally, NASCAR is making a change to the current point system for the first time since its 1975 inception. Race winners will now be awarded 180 points rather than 175 points, ensuring that a race winner will get more points than a runner-up. Five-point bonuses for leading a lap and for leading the most laps will still be awarded.

This change will apply to all three of NASCAR's national series, the NEXTEL Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series.

Darlington Raceway's tripleheader Mountain Dew Southern 500 weekend now stands poised as what Raceway president Andrew Gurtis describes as "the penultimate race weekend of the 2004 season."

Among the racing community, Darlington is either famous or infamous, depending on whom you ask. Drivers like Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Bobby Labonte describe it as their favorite place to race, a true "racer's racetrack." Others, like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Rusty Wallace, speak of Darlington in somewhat less glowing terms.

One fact is now unavoidable, however; love it or hate it, in order to lift that championship trophy in Miami, you must first deal with Darlington.

NASCAR president Mike Helton described the Chase for the Championship as, "a continuation of our season, with heightened drama. It will increase the spotlight on all competitors and increase the value of being in the series for all teams.

"This will be exciting - and fair," Helton continued. "Since 1975, using the current points system, no driver has ever been outside the NASCAR Top 10 with 10 races remaining and come back to win the championship in our premier series. We added the 400-point cutoff to allow drivers outside the Top 10 after 26 races to be included in the Chase for the Championship."

The 2004 Mountain Dew Southern 500 weekend will feature the Darlington 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Friday, evening, November 12, the South Carolina 200 NASCAR Busch Series race on Saturday, November 13, and the 55th running of the legendary Mountain Dew Southern on Sunday, November 14. Start time for the Mountain Dew Southern 500 has not yet been announced.

On March 19-21, 2004, the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series returns to the site of its closest-ever finish, the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400. Race day is Sunday, March 21.The weekend also includes the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 NASCAR Busch Series race on Saturday, March 20, and Bud Pole qualifying for the NASCAR NEXTEL and Busch Series on Friday, March 19.

For tickets or more information, call 843.395.8499, or log onto www.darlingtonraceway.com.

 

 

 

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