After nearly two decades of accomplished leadership in the sport, NASCAR and Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp announced today he’s retiring at the end of the year. The Cook Out Southern 500 will be his final race at the Track Too Tough to Tame, which he has guided with a steady hand since 2016.
“It’s been the honor of a lifetime to serve as president of this beloved South Carolina institution,” Tharp said. “I’ve poured my heart and soul into serving our fans, and they’ve in turn embraced my wife Debbie and our family as one of their own. I look forward to the remainder of this year and experiencing another exciting Labor Day Weekend with our fans during all of the Cook Out Southern 500 festivities.”
Tharp’s profound impact on Darlington Raceway and NASCAR cannot be understated. He was at the helm in 2020 when the track became the nation’s first venue to host a major sporting event following the COVID-19 shutdown. He also was instrumental in the return of a second NASCAR Cup Series race weekend to Darlington’s annual schedule, while also championing the wildly successful Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR concept he inherited when he became track president in 2016.
His tenure as track president followed a remarkable 11-year run leading NASCAR’s communications efforts across all three national series. That came on the heels of a 26-year career in intercollegiate athletics, which included two decades of service as Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations at the University of South Carolina.
“Kerry Tharp’s passion for Darlington Raceway and the state of South Carolina is without question and permeates everything he does,” said Chip Wile, Tharp’s predecessor as track president and NASCAR’s current Chief Tracks Operating Officer. “We’re beyond grateful for Kerry’s service to Darlington Raceway and NASCAR, and we wish Kerry and Debbie continued happiness and success as they embark on this hard-earned next chapter of their lives. I look forward to the fans and industry celebrating his incredible career during the Cook Out Southern 500.”
Preparations are in full swing for the Cook Out Southern 500 Weekend, Sept. 2-3. Action begins Saturday, Sept. 2, with the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Sports Clips Haircuts VFW Help a Hero 200. That sets the stage for Sunday, Sept. 3, when the Cup Series Playoffs begin with the Cook Out Southern 500.
Fans are encouraged to purchase their tickets now at darlingtonraceway.com so they don’t miss out on this historic weekend of NASCAR action.
— Darlington Raceway —