DARLINGTON, SC - When Kerry Tharp was named President of Darlington Raceway on June 29, he didn't have a lot of time to waste with the Bojangles Southern 500 a tad more than two months away.
Fortunately, the structure was in place and former president Chip Wile, who took the same position at Daytona International Raceway, was on hand if Tharp had any questions.
After the tropical depression cleared out and the race to be run on schedule, Tharp was able to take a breath and assess his first Bojangles Southern 500 as president which was unique in that unlike his previous job at NASCAR, he was responsible for more than simply dealing with the media. He had to be on top of parking, concessions, traffic and sponsorships because whoever won the race, Tharp had to make sure he knew which sponsor to mention.
"I found out that the race can kind of get away from you," Tharp said.
"I'd been done doing my rounds with about 20 laps to go and had to look at somebody and said 'Who is winning the race? I got to present the trophy and I need to know who I'm presenting the trophy to."
Now that his Darlington debut is in the books, Tharp says he has already started thinking about how to promote the race throughout the state.
As a former assistant athletics director for media relations at USC, Tharp's background is in media relations - not only with the Gamecock athletics department but for the previous 11 years for NASCAR.
This new challenge is one that he is excited about because he is more than familiar with Darlington's history and knows how important that race is to the state of South Carolina.
Tharp also knows how important that race is to the drivers in the garage.
"Every driver I talked to, before I took this job, was excited about Darlington," he said.
"We're very, very important to NASCAR. We offer a lot of history, a lot of tradition."