Despite a heavy push by some to shelve gasoline-powered, exhaust-spewing vehicles, Darlington Raceway’s president said fans like them and viewers are unlikely to see them replaced at the sport’s racetracks any time soon.
But, Kerry Tharp told the Columbia Rotary Club Monday, “never say never.”
“I don’t see that any time soon,” Tharp said. “People like that sound, they like that smell.”
Tharp, a former associate athletics director for media relations for 20 years at the University of South Carolina, added, “It would have to be something that would still not lose that, for NASCAR fans to really get their arms around it.”
Across the world, many countries including the United States are trying to move away from activities that consume fossil fuels and produce heat-absorbing emissions. Gasoline-fueled motor sports, and many other activities, are tremendous producers of such emissions, and critics continue to push those sports to find other alternatives they contend are leading to harmful environmental impacts.
That said, NASCAR will “go down the path of what they got to do for the environment,” Tharp said. “NASCAR would certainly consider it.”
Tharp, 64, said Darlington Raceway is particularly proud that it could use its facilities in March and April to hold mass vaccination events for COVID-19.
In March some 5,400 people were vaccinated with their first dose of the Moderna vaccine and got their second dose in April.
Moderna vaccine are 94% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It was one of the most meaningful initiatives I’ve been a part of,” Tharp said in an interview after his speech. “It wasn’t really racing, but it was people racing to get the vaccine.”
Nicknamed “Too Tough to Tame,” Darlington Raceway will host its Southern 500 Labor Day race weekend on Sept. 4-5. It is the second race weekend of the year. They hosted Throwback Weekend around Mother’s Day in May. It is the first time since 2004 the track will host two scheduled race weekends.
The Cook Out Southern 500, set for 6 p.m. Sept. 5 at Darlington Raceway, is the first race of NASCAR’s 2021 playoffs.
Sports Editor Dwayne McLemore contributed to this report.