COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – “The Lady In Black” has apparently made it to another year.

Darlington Raceway president Chris Browning said Wednesday that the track got the go-ahead from its owners, International Speedway Corp., to send out ticket renewal letters for another Mother’s Day weekend Nextel Cup race. The date of the Carolina Dodge Dealers 500 is May 13, 2006, the night before the holiday.

“I think if there were any other plans (for Darlington), ISC wouldn’t let us do this,” Browning told The Associated Press.

Browning said there will be a support Friday night race May 12, but he wouldn’t say whether it would be the traditional Busch series or the Craftsman Truck Series, which has run at Darlington in the past.

Renewal letters went out this week, Darlington spokeswoman Cathy Elliott said. Once everyone who purchased tickets this year gets a chance to buy again, then Darlington will go to its waiting list of about 1,300, she said. NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter says next year’s schedule will be released later this summer. The track hasn’t signed a sanctioning agreement yet, but expects to in the coming week, Elliott said.

Darlington’s future in the sport has been tenuous the last few years, with speculation that each race might be its last. But a sold-out showing this past May gave the old country track momentum that Browning thinks could last past 2006.

“From the conversations I’m having with the folks in Daytona … I get the feeling that we’re in good shape right now,” Browning said. “We’ve got ideas floating out there, for four, five years down the road. And no one has said to me, Don’t go there.’ It’s all been encouraging.”

Browning expects the race name, called the Dodge Charger 500 this past May, to revert to the Carolina Dodge Dealers 500.

This spring’s race ended two years of turbulence for Darlington. In 2003, it was announced that its traditional Labor Day race would move to California Speedway for the 2004 season.

Then a year ago, NASCAR realigned once again, removing one of two Darlington races and leaving the track with an untested night event on a weekend the circuit had not run in the previous 19 years.

But Browning and staff worked to achieve Darlington’s first pre-race sellout since the 1997 Southern 500 – before the track was expanded to its current capacity of 60,000 seats. The TV broadcast on Fox got a 5.6 rating and an 11 share.

, which then ranked as the highest-rated prime-time NASCAR event in the network’s history.

“I think that answered more questions and eliminated a lot of doubt and second guessing,” Browning said.

AP-ES-07-06-05 1741EDT

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