Darlington In A New Light

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It's not true that NASCAR first raced at Darlington Raceway before electricity was invented. It just seems that way.

NASCAR has been coming to the historic South Carolina track since 1950. But last season was the first for Darlington to host a race at night, as the track's multi-million dollar lighting system was installed as part of a massive renovation.

And as far as Jimmie Johnson is concerned, the switch to racing under the lights is fine by him.

"I love racing at night," Johnson said. "The racing that I grew up doing, we didn't have a lot of night races. I think it's great for the fans and the drivers and it typically means we have Sunday off. I'm usually very happy about that."

After sweeping two races at Darlington in 2004, the last year the track hosted a pair of NEXTEL Cup events in one season, you might think Johnson would be opposed to the switch to nocturnal racing at the legendary track.

Not so says Johnson.

"Darlington is a very fun track to drive at night," he said. "The track has a little more grip and is a little more forgiving than what you have during a day race. That takes away a little bit of the challenge at Darlington, but I love going to that track, regardless. It's one of my favorite tracks on the circuit."

Johnson likes Darlington as well as Lowe's Motor Speedway, where he'll double his pleasure in two weeks when he makes his first Busch Series start of the season.

As the NEXTEL Cup Series point leader, Johnson is very aware of the current controversy regarding the number of Cup regulars competing in - and dominating - NASCAR's junior circuit.

"I think everybody recognizes the benefit of Cup drivers racing in the Busch Series," Johnson said. "If we feel like, or if everybody feels like it is preventing start-up teams from coming in and affecting young drivers who are trying to come in and use the Busch Series to get some experience, I think it's not a bad idea to restrict the Cup drivers."

"But the way I see it right now, there are only a few cars going home from a race, if any. If the Cup drivers weren't there, the quality of the show would be much less."

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