Saturday July 4th, 2020 8:29PM

The Latest: Potential bad weather clears Darlington stands

By The Associated Press
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DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — The Latest from NASCAR racing at Darlington Raceway on Sunday (all times EDT):

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5:40 p.m.

Officials at Darlington Raceway have cleared the grandstands and postponed driver introductions for the Southern 500 because of severe weather in the area.

The warning came about 30 minutes or so before the NASCAR Cup race's scheduled start. It appears the delay also would push back the start time of the 500-mile race.

Fans walked down the steep stands to the exits and were asked to find shelter in their vehicles until the bad weather passes.

There had been several dark storm clouds appearing over the track the past few hours.

There was no immediate indication how long the warning for Darlington would last.

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4 p.m.

Fans at the Southern 500 will notice a different look at Darlington Raceway. They'll feel it, too.

The track completed some $7 million in improvements, nearly all of it going into its aging and often uncomfortable grandstands. Darlington leaders replaced and widened seating and aisles in its main Tyler, Colvin and Wallace grandstands.

The track also installed a "Wall of Honor" in its grandstands circling the 1.366-mile egg-shaped layout. Banners listing all 49 of Darlington's winners since its first race in 1950 are set up in what had been seating closest to the track.

Darlington Raceway president Kerry Tharp said the seats lost to the project were some of the worst in the facility. The redo has given all fans improved comfort and sight angles, Tharp said.

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2 p.m.

Denny Hamlin will look to end a yearlong drought in NASCAR's top series when he starts on the pole for the Southern 500.

Hamlin has not won since taking the checkered flag at Darlington Raceway a year ago. He showed his Darlington touch might be back when he turned the fastest lap in qualifying, and then finished fourth in the Xfinity race Saturday.

Hamlin is on the verge of clinching one of the four remaining spots in NASCAR's playoffs. He needs eight points to lock up his 12th playoff berth in 13 seasons.

Kyle Larson starts second Sunday night and last year's Cup series champion Martin Truex Jr. is third. Current points leader Kyle Busch qualified fifth while series wins leader Kevin Harvick will start 22nd.

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More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/tag/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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