DARLINGTON, S.C. -- "Have you seen this?" Darlington Raceway president Chris Browning asks before carefully unfolding the creased sheet he took out of his right front pocket.
The page shows a drawing of modern garages and a reshaped infield, a dream unlikely to happen five years ago.
That was when NASCAR head, the late Bill France Jr., decreed that Darlington was among the Sprint Cup venues that risked closure because of fading attendance and crumbling atmosphere.
Now Darlington's once dark future is as bright as the megawatt lights that made night racing on Mother's Day weekend possible.
Fans pour out of the soldout country relic from splashy new grandstands under modern lighting and through a wide-laned access tunnel.
Kyle Busch gave Joe Gibbs Racing a sweep of the weekend, besting the new asphalt that cost much of the $10 million in improvements by track owners International Speedway Corp. after last year's race.
Browning said the revival begins and ends with the region's fans, who have helped sell out all four events since the track's remaining race date was moved to Mother's Day weekend.
"If they had not come out and supported the place, we would not have gotten the momentum to go out and do the things that we have done," Browning said.
Browning knows about padlocked tracks. He was in charge of Darlington's sister track, North Carolina Speedway at Rockingham, when its long history with NASCAR ended.
Browning transferred to Darlington, where some figured he would get to switch off the lights on another icon of Southern racing.
No less a Darlington aficionado than NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter knew what his favorite track was up against. "I knew I had a lot of selling to do," said Hunter, Darlington's president from 1993 to 2001 before moving to the sport's headquarters.
Hunter said Darlington lost a generation of fans through complacency and neglect. When he came on the scene, restrooms were deplorable and the amenities were not much different from when it hosted its first NASCAR race in 1950.
Slowly, Hunter began improvements. Pearson Grandstand added 7,800 seats to the track.
Things really took off the past few years. The lights, advocated by Hunter in the mid-1990s, were added in 2004. Another grandstand, the 6,300-seat Brasington Tower, was built for 2006.
Then this past year came the badly needed tunnel and repaving.
"The place looks great," Browning said.
Darlington has benefited from lost layouts like "The Rock," and defunct North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina. Where there had once been six races (two each at Rockingham, North Wilkesboro and Darlington) in a compact area, there's now only the Dodge Challenger 500.
Another reason is Darlington's staff. With only 14 people, the track has the smallest crew in NASCAR. But Browning talks with pride about how dedicated the group is to keeping the 58-year-old layout relevant in today's Sprint Cup Series.
"They go the extra mile to make sure that we put on the best show and we improve the place," he said.
Part of Darlington's success has come from taking a dud weekend and turning it into a winner. NASCAR stayed away from Mother's Day for nearly two decades before Darlington took it over.
"It was a risk," Hunter admitted.
But the sport was built on such risk-taking. This one paid off.
"It doesn't surprise me" that racing is thriving again at the track "Too Tough To Tame," he said.
Jeff Gordon, a seven-time Darlington winner, says the improvements haven't affected the track's character, which is what appeals to the racers. "I hope more than anything that it stays here because to me this place, the fact that it hasn't changed, just shows all the history," he said.
It was only a few years back Browning would announced a Darlington sellout, then cross his fingers it was enough to guarantee next year.
With the event sold out a fourth straight time, Browning's more certain of Darlington's place in NASCAR's future.
So he shows off his infield sketch of what could be.
"It is certainly a different environment today than it was three or four years ago," Browning said. "It's been one positive on top of another."