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FIRST FAN: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley came to Darlington Raceway for the first time for a tour of the state’s NASACAR superspeedway. Haley and her husband, Michael, took part in the drivers’ prerace meeting and the first-term leader got to meet her favorite driver, Danica Patrick. “Michael took a picture of it. It should be up on Facebook soon,” Haley said.

Haley said the Southern 500 brings 60,000 fans and millions of dollars to the area and is a wonderful way to showcase South Carolina.

“It is amazing what goes into these races,” she said. “It really tremendous for the state.”

Her biggest surprise of the day? “That Danica Patrick is tiny. She’s absolutely tiny,” Haley said about the 5-foot-2 driver.


LUGNUTS: It’s Mother’s Day weekend, which means Darlington’s annual tradition of honoring mom. Several NASCAR moms came out along with their driver sons during prerace introductions, then the group gave the starting call of “Sons and drivers, start your engines.” … Carl Edwards has pointed to Darlington Raceway more than most competitors since ending runnerup to Regan Smith in a green-white-checkered finish. “We’ve been waiting since that last restart a year ago to come back here,” he said. “Everyone talks about this being one of the biggest races and it really is for our whole team.” … Nominations for the 2012 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award close May 31. The award honors NASCAR fans making an impact with children in communities across the country.