IHRA Drag Review Magazine — DRM February 2016
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Darlington Dragway
Kendra Tucker

An IHRA original track is getting a new look just in time for its 40th anniversary. Russell Miller has taken over management of the track and has big plans for Darlington Dragway for the upcoming season and beyond.

Darlington Dragway is an original IHRA member track. Harold Brasington partnered with local Darlington land owner, Woodrow Hall, and IHRA founder, Larry Carrier, to design the track in the mid 1970's. The two had previously worked together on Rockingham Dragway and the similarities between the two tracks are still evident today (spectator viewing area and racer pit area). The major difference that would debut at Darlington has a revolutionary two-tower design. This design not only brought corporate America to the track by providing a secondary tower, but also changed the way fans were introduced to drag racing. By splitting the professional and sportsman racers with their own staging lanes behind each tower, congestion and confusion was eliminated, and fans were introduced to racers first by hearing them before seeing them. This new design would be incorporated into many tracks built after 1980.

Darlington's inaugural season started in 1976, but its first national event, the IHRA Summer Nationals, was rained out twice. In 1977, IHRA kicked off its national event circuit at Darlington with the Winter Nationals.

Over the next 40 years, the track would host some of the biggest names in professional drag racing and grow one of the largest sportsman national events on the IHRA circuit. After years of success, economic slow down and failing track conditions put the track's future in jeopardy. This is where Russell Miller comes in.

Four years ago, Miller entered into a leasing agreement for the track for 60% with Ronnie Siders making up the other 40%. "I put Ronnie in charge for three years," explains Miller. "Basically I was a silent partner, I was uninvolved but the track was open, which was my goal." The lease was going to be up at the end of November 2015 and Siders was looking to get out.

"At that point I had two options; it was either wipe my hands of it and possibly the track would shut down, or I would attempt to take the track over and continue running it as 100% owner. The place was in obvious disarray. It had lost a Pro-Am, lost the Division 2 bracket finals, and was dwindling away because of lack of maintenance. PDRA came to me and asked me to keep it open. So I went to the Hall family and made them an offer to lease the track as a substantially lower rate so I could afford to make the repairs that needed to be done to the facility. So, on Halloween day, they agreed to my terms and we signed a lease for the next 10 years."

Miller wasted no time getting the track ready for the 2016 season. "As of December 1,1 started to put in concrete barriers and started on painting. There's a lot that needs to be done. We'll be refurbishing the bathrooms, grinding the track, putting in a new timing system, kind of giving Darlington a face lift."

"I've got to increase the integrity of the track. It's got to be a nice, clean facility that's operational. The track needs to be flat so faster cars can go down it. The metal guardrails were unsafe for real fast cars. Once we get those upgrades done, the racers can come in and have a good facility to race at and have a timing system they can count on, a track and track prep they can depend on, ambulance, fire truck, basically all the amenities a drag strip is supposed to have for integrity and safety. Those are the things that I am absolutely making sure are done before we open. It's going to be a building process over at least the next five years, but over the next three months there is major, major work being done."

With all the improvements being planned, Miller and his team have a full schedule of events coming up for the 2016 season. With 12 IHRA Summit SuperSeries points races, a Heads-Up program, three Carolina Xtreme Pro Mod events, Mustang Week Shootout, 2016 DRAF Memorial Race, an IHRA Ironman Shootout Halloween Classic, and much more, it's looking to be an exciting season at Darlington. "We've got some hurdles to jump within the IHRA and racing community to show people that this is not the old track. We're trying to get back to the basics. Wednesday night is a very popular night for our traditional Grudge Test N Tune and that's really popular within our local community."

Miller has a great support system helping him out with all the improvements. "I obviously want to thank my family for . Standing behind me and being a racing family. My wife, DeeDee, myson, Tylor, who has actually been out at the track overseeing the improvements, and my daughter, Brooke.They're all in on my passion and that's awesome. Huddleston Performance is going to be our title sponsor for our Junior Dragster program. I also want to thank DRAF (Drag Racing Association of Florence). They're doing a lot of volunteer help to clean up, paint, and other things for Darlington Dragway. Steve Turner is the president. He owns a painting company and is taking the month of January off to come in and help design and repaint a lot of our structures at the track."

"There's a great family team feel to this track right now. And that's not the corporations or sponsors or anything like that. It's individuals, it's racers, it's the true grassroots drag racer that's doing all the help right now."

For more information on Darlington Dragway's schedule and improvements, visit dar lingtondragway.Com or find them on Facebook at facebook.com/officialdarlingtondragway