Kerry Tharp ‘Couldn’t Be More Excited’ About Becoming President Of Darlington Raceway

Kerry Tharp ‘Couldn’t Be More Excited’ About Becoming President Of Darlington Raceway

by July 2, 2016 0 comments

DARLINGTON, S.C. – Although Kerry Tharp is a native Kentuckian, he’s no stranger to the state of South Carolina.

Most South Carolinians know Tharp from when he served as the Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations at the University of South Carolina from 1985 to 2005, but the Gamecock aficionado has been working in NASCAR ever since. Even when he began working for NASCAR, he live in Fort Mill and never left the Palmetto State. To be able to lead Darlington Raceway is a dream come true for Tharp. Former track president, Jim Hunter was one of Tharp’s greatest mentors, and the people of the state have always had a special place in his heart.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” Tharp said. “I actually never left South Carolina. When I took the job at NASCAR, we stayed in South Carolina and were living in Fort Mill, which is really the last community that you can live in before you get to the North Carolina line. But to be able to come to Darlington, a track that has so much history and tradition and having been in the state of South Carolina for more than 30 years, I love this state. I love its people, and I know that Darlington is special to this state and also very special to the sport of NASCAR. To have that combination and be able to come over and work at a track that’s highly sought out and highly regarded by competitors and by the fans, means the world to me.”

To summarize, when Tharp worked at NASCAR as a Senior Director of Racing Communications, he helped lead the at-track efforts in the media center, as well as the public relations efforts for the NASCAR Research and Development Center, located in Concord, North Carolina. Tharp was on the road many weeks out of the year, and now he’ll be in the office at Darlington Raceway, promoting the Bojangles’ Southern 500 weekend and a variety of local events. The responsibilities have changed, but Tharp is certainly the guy for the job. He said that there will be butterflies as he transitions, but he’s got a veteran staff to help him out.

“Anytime that you step into a new role, there’s going to be some unknowns,” Tharp said. “There certainly are with this. I have a lot to learn to be honest with you. I’m going to have to rely on the staff that they have in Darlington, a great deal. Chip Wile did an outstanding job with the two-plus years that he was there, getting the excitement and the energy back around the track. The move to the Labor Day weekend was just a brilliant move. I think that’s where it belongs.”

To say that the first year of Darlington Raceway’s throwback campaign was a success is an understatement. In 2015, Darlington Raceway was awarded the prestigious National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Myers Brothers Award, and the track had the NASCAR Marketing Team of the Year, as well as the NASCAR Track PR Representative of the Year. The Lady In Black was even a Sports Business Journal “Sports Event of the Year” Nominee earlier this year. With that being said, Kerry Tharp also believes in the throwback campaign, and he looks to lead the efforts to even higher levels. One thing that Tharp would really like to do is reach out to the younger generation and get more kids and young adults in the region to the track.

“I always want to be thinking ahead,” Tharp said. “I think that the throwback theme is a great fit for Darlington, and I think that it can be applied for many, many years to come. There’s so much history in the sport. There are so many heroes in the sport. What I would like to see happen is that this history and the heroes of the sport are transposed over to the new fans, the young people in the state and around the region that maybe aren’t familiar with the history or the stories of tradition that surround this sport.

“I would like to be able to tie that in and connect with them because we’ve got to grow our fan base. We’ve got to continue to focus on the young people. They’ve really got to start at a really early age and get them to get to the racetrack with their parents, with their relatives and have a good experience. There’s so much going on out there in the sports world now. There are so many options and so much entertainment that’s available. We’ve got to be progressive, and NASCAR has been doing a great job the last few years relying on technology and making things a little bit more fan friendly.”

Although the task to attract the younger generation these days can be difficult, Darlington Raceway has a lot going for it. Everyone loves throwbacks, and last year, the racing was absolutely incredible. There were 24 lead changes among 11 different drivers, and on top of that, the 18 cautions and side-by-side racing kept the fans on their feet all night long. The Bojangles’ Southern 500 had an impressive showing on TV as well, drawing in over 6 million viewers. More information on Darlington Raceway’s 2015 TV statistics can be found here: 2015 NASCAR Television Ratings. One thing is for certain though, Labor Day weekend will be here in two months, and the track Too Tough To Tame now has a new leader that is wanting to embrace the community and continue the tradition of making the small town of Darlington, South Carolina a sought after destination.

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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