HARTSVILLE, S.C. – Kerry Tharp, president of Darlington Raceway, told the Hartsville Rotary Club Tuesday that the Labor Day race weekend "means good things for everybody in the area."
Tharp joined the Darlington track in July 2016. He is a native of Louisville, Kentucky. He came to South Carolina to work at the University of South Carolina, where he had a 20-year career as associate athletic director of media relations. He has been a resident of South Carolina since 1985.
Tharp said that when he was approached about working with NASCAR he didn’t even like NASCAR or racing. He went to Daytona in 2005 to talk about a job, liked what he saw and started working for the organization. He lived in Fort Mill for 11 years and was asked about coming to Darlington.
“It is one of the best decisions I have ever made,” he told Rotarians.
The Darlington Raceway will be celebrating its 70th anniversary with the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Sept. 1.
“We are blessed to have the support of the state of South Carolina,” he said.
He said the impact the race weekend has on the economy of this area and the state is significant.
“It means good things for everybody in the area,” Tharp said. “It is a big deal.”
He said that in 2020 Darlington will be the lead-off race in the playoffs. He said it will still be the same September date and have the award-winning throwback theme.
This year will be a throwback to the early '90s, he said. The raceway will be celebrating the 1990-94 era of the sport.
Tharp said Dale Earnhardt Jr. will compete in the Darlington Raceway’s NASCAR XFINITY Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 race that Saturday.
“The energy and interest he brings is incredible,” Tharp said.
Other highlights of race weekend will be the performance of the “ Star-Spangled Banner” by South Carolina native Edwin McCain.
The rock/alternative group Better Than Ezra will headline the Visit Myrtle Beach Pre-Race Concert.
On Saturday, Tharp said, people can take a lap around the track from 1 to 4 p.m. There will be a charge.
He said to come out and test the “Lady in Black.”
“We want this area of the state to shine,” he said. “Everyone wants to win Daytona and right behind that is the Bojangles’ 500.”
He said NBC spent three days at the Darlington race track filming preview spots.
Tharp closed by telling Rotarians to take advantage of the race track and the many things it has to offer.
“Talk it up,” he said. “It is a source of pride for the people in this area.”