DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Longtime NASCAR executive Josh Harris has been named Darlington Raceway's president, succeeding the retiring Kerry Tharp.
The track announced the move Saturday, a day before the NASCAR playoffs begin with the Southern 500 at the track dubbed "Too Tough To Tame."
"I want to continue to make this a place where fans want to come visit twice a year and showcase the best racing in the world," Harris told The Associated Press on Friday.
A couple of things Harris would like to clear up: No, he's not the new owner of the Washington Commanders despite sharing the same name; and no, he does not have a Mississippi town named for his family, although he did grow up in Harrisville in the Magnolia State.
"They told me they didn't realize I had that kind of money," Harris said with a laugh.
Now, Harris has the mandate to keep NASCAR's oldest superspeedway part of the Cup Series schedule twice per year going forward.
As the track's vice president of business operations since January, he saw how much NASCAR teams, drivers and fans loved the throwback celebration Darlington has held each year since 2015. Harris also thinks it's a true test when the NASCAR playoffs start at Darlington, as they have since 2020.
"My goal is to continue to build on the success and hope to have both races every year," he said.
He became a NASCAR fan when he got tickets to a Winston Cup race in Talladega in 1993 for his 11th birthday. After receiving his undergraduate degree from Mississippi State and graduate degree from Miami, Harris got a job as director of ticketing at Talladega in 2012. He later accepted a job at Daytona International Speedway, where he oversaw ticketing and guest services.
When the opportunity to advance presented itself because of Tharp's looming retirement, Harris jumped, knowing it would be a good steppingstone toward heading a venue. He didn't know Tharp would decide to retire so soon.
Tharp said Harris is a hard worker determined to build on Darlington's legacy.
"Josh Harris is the right person to lead Darlington Raceway," Tharp said. "This is one of the most historic racetracks in motorsports, and I am certain it will be in great hands."
Harris has soaked up Tharp's knowledge from two decades with NASCAR and will learn as much as possible from him the rest of this season.
"He's a great resource for me," said Harris, who moves into his new role in January.
Darlington is in a good spot, in Harris' view. It's his job not to mess things up.
"I look forward to easing into it, to grow and learn and put my stamp on it down the road," Harris said.