Darlington's Favorite Son
For a kid growing up in Darlington — Maryland, that is — racing wasn’t even on the radar.
“We were starved for racing in that area,” said Rick Viers, a Darlington, Md., native and crew chief of the No. 84. “All they knew was horse racing. Growing up in junior high and high school, all you got was maybe 30 minutes of ‘Wide World Of Sports.’ You couldn’t even find a paragraph about racing in the newspaper.”
The landscape of Viers’ Darlington and that of Darlington, S.C., are similar — a stop light or two, an elementary school here and a convenience store there. But Darlington, Md., doesn’t have a Lady in Black.
Saturday night’s Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway — located three states below Viers’ hometown in the sand hills of South Carolina — is just another race for a guy who wore the first of many hats as a team owner and driver in the 1984 NASCAR Mid-Atlantic Region. After three years perfecting his on-track performance, Viers went on to win four races and the crown of Old Dominion Speedway track champion.
He jumped ship to the NASCAR Winston Cup Series in 1988, following his heart to a tin-top racing career that has spanned two decades. His move to North Carolina fueled stints with seven top Cup and Nationwide teams and led to work alongside two of the sport’s greatest racers — Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.
“Nobody knew anything about stock car racing,” Viers said. “It used to be that you were an outsider. Now everybody is wearing T-shirts and hats that show support for stock car racing. When you used to talk racing back home people thought, ‘What is that?’ But the mindset has changed a lot since then.”