DARLINGTON, SC (WMBF) - Kerry Tharp, recently named the Darlington Raceway president, describes the Bojangles Southern 500 race and throwback weekend as the crown jewel for both the raceway and the Pee Dee.
"Quite frankly, we think it's one of the biggest events on the NASCAR schedule. Certainly you have the Daytona 500 and all that it means for the sport, but you know the Southern 500 holds a lot of history in this sport,' Tharp said.
Tharp discovered his love for NASCAR 11 years ago while handling all racing communications based out of North Carolina and attending 26 races throughout the year.
He said he spent most of his life in sports and feels prepared for the big weekend.
He said, "Most recently in NASCAR, all the race events that we were a part of, you know the championship weekend down at Homestead-Miami, certainly that was a huge event. Daytona speed weeks, I've been involved with many, many times, that's a huge event," Tharp said. "But I'm looking forward to this event I think more than I have ever looked forward to a sporting event before."
The Track Too Tough to Tame held its first race in 1950, and that was on Labor Day weekend.
It is a landmark in the Darlington community, and Tharp plans to keep the Southern 500 race during Labor Day weekend.
"That was the history, the tradition, and that's what the fans have come to expect and certainly there was a period of time where we got off Labor Day weekend and did some other things in the spring, but Labor Day weekend is where this race belongs," he said.
Tharp explained how much the support of the community has meant to him. When previous raceway president Chip While took him around Darlington before he started the job, he had 18 meetings in just two days, where he met with everyone from law enforcement to county officials.
As president, he said he wants everyone to feel a part of what they do, and not just during throwback weekend. Tharp's goal is to open up the track for events that could appeal to the youth and possibly the Darlington County School District.
The events are to make sure the track does not sit idle throughout the year, which will definitely not be the case during the Southern 500 race.
"The eyes and ears of the world will be focused in on Darlington, S.C., so it's a great opportunity for us to showcase this region, showcase the state of South Carolina and certainly put on a great show for the fans," Tharp said.