An odd, egg-shaped oval – Darlington (S.C.) Raceway – is a track that has been called one of the toughest of all on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, so much so that it earned the nickname “The Track Too Tough to Tame.”
The 1.366-mile raceway’s shape stems from a promise track founder Harold Brasington made to Sherman Ramsey, a neighboring farm owner, that he wouldn’t disturb his minnow pond when the track was built in 1949. As a result, the western half of the track features a tighter radius in the turns.
“It’s a challenging track,” said Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). “It’s probably one of the toughest that we have on our schedule. There are four completely different corners and you’re typically entering them at high speed and usually right up against the wall. There is very minimal room for error, which is how you end up with the famous ‘Darlington Stripe.’ You have to definitely be aggressive and get the most out of it, but you don’t want to hit the wall because that’s a pretty big setback.”
In five NASCAR Cup Series starts at “The Track Too Tough to Tame,” Patrick has earned a few “Darlington Stripes.” Her best NASCAR Cup Series finish at the track is a 22nd-place effort she earned in 2014. In her lone NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Darlington, Patrick started 15th and brought home a 12th-place result in 2012.
When she returns to the track this weekend for Sunday night’s Southern 500, Patrick will be looking to improve upon her record at Darlington, not only for herself and the No. 10 team, but also to help pay tribute to a NASCAR legend.
This weekend, many teams in the NASCAR industry will celebrate the heritage of the sport by running throwback paint schemes. As a part of that effort, SHR will honor 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Robert Yates with a special paint scheme on the No. 10 Ford Fusion Patrick will race on Sunday.
After working in the sport for more than two decades, Yates launched his own team, Robert Yates Racing, in the late 1980s. In 1996, the team expanded to a two-car operation, fielding the No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford for driver Dale Jarrett. The decision by Yates to add a second car to the stable resulted in Jarrett winning the 1999 championship with a paint scheme that Patrick’s No. 10 Ford Credit Ford Fusion will emulate at Darlington.
Ford Motor Credit Company is the financial services arm of Ford Motor Company. The brand was first seen on a NASCAR racecar in 1994, when it sponsored Elton Sawyer in what is now the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The sponsorship was very successful, so much so that in 1996 it expanded into the NASCAR Cup Series, which allowed Yates’ operation to become a two-car team.
Jarrett ran the No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford paint scheme from 1996 through 2000, earning 20 wins, nine poles and leading more than 5,000 laps. That tally includes wins at Darlington in the 1997 and 1998 TranSouth Financial 400.
“I’m excited to run a true throwback scheme this year,” Patrick said. “It’s great that we’re able to honor Robert Yates and all he’s done for our sport. Robert and Dale had a lot of success in the Ford Credit Ford, and I hope we can add to that this weekend at Darlington.”
As the series returns to Darlington for the Southern 500, the chance to honor Yates will also be a special one for Billy Scott, crew chief for Patrick and the No. 10 Ford Credit Ford Fusion.
“I grew up a fan of Robert,” Scott said. “Everything I raced from the time I was 5 years old until I finally quit driving myself in my early 20s had a No. 28 on it. I just always idolized what he had done, what his career path was and how he was able to work his way into the sport and work his way up to being a car owner. My first interview when I went to work over there (at Yates Racing) was with the two of them (Robert and Doug Yates) sitting in a room. I remember walking in and being too nervous to talk pretty much as I sat down to interview. I would never trade the time I spent there with them.
“The sport has changed a lot over the years, but this is where our roots are and guys like Robert are the ones who worked so hard to build the foundation that we get to enjoy now. This tribute to Robert is truly deserved.”