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Darlington Raceway is a race track built for NASCAR racing located in Darlington, South Carolina. It is of a unique, somewhat egg-shaped design, an oval with the ends of very different configurations, a condition which supposedly arose from the proximity of one end of the track to a minnow pond the owner refused to relocate. This situation makes it very challenging for the crews to set up their cars' handling in a way that will be effective at both ends.
For many years, Darlington was the site of two annual NASCAR Cup Series races. One, the Rebel 400, was held in the spring while the other, the Southern 500, was always held on Labor Day weekend. In 2003, the Labor Day race was given to Auto Club Speedway, and the Southern 500 was moved to November 2004 and was run as part of the Chase. In 2005, NASCAR eliminated the Southern 500 altogether as a result of the Ferko lawsuit, offending many fans who had followed the sport for generations. The race was merged into the 400-mile (640 km) spring race, and moved to Mother's Day weekend. A 500-mile race named after a Dodge vehicle was held for the next four years, before the race was given the Southern 500 moniker in 2009.
The move was the result of several factors. Darlington suffered from poor ticket sales, particularly in the spring. Part of this is due to the track's location in the Textile Belt of South Carolina, where there has been an ongoing general economic decline for many years. Additionally, there is very little of interest to the average fan from outside the Darlington area other than the events at the track itself. Many newer NASCAR venues are near major cities to avoid this problem. A further factor in the move was an ongoing desire by NASCAR to spread its events out over more of the country. However, the novelty having now worn off of many of these newer races and venues, several of them are now suffering much worse attendance than Darlington has ever experienced.
Darlington received a $10 million upgrade in 2008, the largest investment in the track's history. This followed a $6 million upgrade the previous year, which included an entire repaving of the oval for the first time since 1995.
In 2014, Darlington swapped dates with Kansas Speedway and was run in April. In 2015, the Southern 500 returned to its traditional Labor Day weekend date.