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Wayne Darling has been around auto racing his entire life. He grew up going to the race track with his father, who was a driver. But the 59-year-old has never felt that success in racing should take priority over personal life.
A veteran owner of touring series teams that first competed in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, and now the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Darling’s cars had never completed a full season prior to 2012. It was just too much to ask of his crew members.
“Racing is a hobby, we’re not in it to make you have family problems or anything like that,” Darling said. “There are more important things than racing.”
After following his father’s career as an SCCA competitor, Darling got his own start behind the wheel at age 16. In 1984 he retired from driving, but returned 17 years ago to field a team for his son to run weekly at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway. They eventually progressed to K&N Pro Series East competition, but moved on from that series following the 2004 season.
“They started running more races down south and we wanted to run pretty much just local,” said Darling, whose team shop is located in Seekonk.
So Darling and his longtime crew chief, John McKenna, moved the operation over to the Whelen Modified Tour for the 2005 season. From 2005-11 they competed on a part-time basis – often splitting the schedule with another team for one common driver – but in 2012 they decided to make the leap to full-time.
“The schedule was a little relaxed, it wasn’t so much in a row, and John said he wanted to try to do the whole year,” Darling said. “I asked him if he wanted to do the whole year, he said yes, and I said ‘Ok, let’s try it’.”
What resulted was a magical run for the No. 52 Reynolds Auto Wrecking/Furnace & Duct Supply Chevrolet team. In his second year driving for Darling, Doug Coby piloted the car to four wins in the first seven races to jump to the points lead, and a fifth with came late in the season to help solidify the first championship campaign for Darling Racing.
“This is something that I never thought I’d achieve, really,” Darling said. “I just love the sport of auto racing and my thing is, when I go to the race track, I just want people to know we were there and we were competitive.”
Mission accomplished for Darling. The No. 52 team was not only competitive, it was the class of the field this season. As a result, they’ll celebrate as 2012 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champions on Saturday, Dec. 8 with the NASCAR Touring Series Awards in Charlotte, N.C.