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Study: Darlington brings in $54 million into area

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

By PETE IACOBELLI

AP Sports Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A new study says that the South Carolina track that's "Too Tough To Tame" has an economic impact that's hard to ignore.

Darlington Raceway brings in $54 million to the state each year and is responsible for creating 874 jobs in the region, according to the report commissioned by the track and released Wednesday by The Washington Economics Group.

The last time the raceway, now in it's 60th season, took a comprehensive look at its economic footprint was in 2000, track president Chris said. That survey found that Darlington had about a $60 million impact on the state and region. However, that was with two Sprint Cup weekends, including a lucrative Labor Day race.

Darlington has since been cut back to one race and given what was thought to be a horrible weekend for racing, the Saturday before Mother's Day. Even so, Darlington has sold out the past four years and has seemingly shored up its once shaky future.

Browning was pleased with the study's results.

"If I told you I had a business that would bring $54 million into the area, there are a lot of people who'd be interested," Browning said.

The report, done at a cost of $12,000, took several months and quantified direct economic benefits and those that are indirectly linked to the spending that goes on during a race, the track said.

Other findings include:

--NASCAR events and other activities at Darlington lead to $19 million in labor income to workers in South Carolina.

--Federal, state and local governments collect more than $7.9 million from Darlington events.

--Track activities contribute $30 million a year to South Carolina's gross state product.

"Darlington brings in huge, huge numbers of people into the state, and the expenditures show that," said Charles Yaros, an associate consultant for The Washington Economics Group.

The South Carolina House and Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution declaring race week in May as "Darlington Raceway Week" in the state.

The Statehouse looked a bit more like a NASCAR track with race cars parked at its front and back. Lawmakers wandering around the grounds stopped to take in Darlington's 2009 show car or Johnny Mantz's 1950 Plymouth, winner of the first Southern 500.

Gov. Mark Sanford called Darlington "legendary" in the racing world. "It continues to play an important role in its contributions to the Pee Dee region and the state as a whole," the governor said.

The Washington Economics Group, from Coral Gables, Fla., has conducted similar studies for corporations like IBM and MasterCard International, according to its Web site.

The Southern 500 will take place at Darlington on Saturday night, May 9. Browning says ticket sales are slightly behind what they have been at this time in other years. He remains hopeful of a fifth straight sellout.



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