Johnson surprises Darlington County school children

Alan Marler/Harold Hinson Photography

By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

On Friday, Jimmie Johnson surprised a group of school children from Darlington County School District who participated in the summer reading program hosted by Darlington Raceway,

This year, the program saw 771 students from kindergarten to eight grade participating, a 10 percent increase over 2016. The program consisted of four local libraries from the Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar, and Society Hill area. Darlington Raceway partnered with the Darlington County Library System, the TEACH Foundation, and South Carolina Future Minds to facilitate the program.

Children who were in the top-three readers were invited to Darlington Raceway on Friday. The program at the speedway consisted of racing related activities. The children were surprised when the seven-time Cup champion arrived.

During the time, Johnson answered questions from “Why is Dale Jr retiring?” to “How much horsepower does your car produce?” to “How old do you have to be to drive a racer?” Through the questions, Johnson remained engaged and answered the questions with honesty and candor. At the end of the question and answer session, Johnson handed each child a medal recognizing their hard work of reading over the summer.

“This summer’s program was a true community effort,” Kerry Tharp, track president, said. “We can all be proud of what each and every student achieved. And the fact that one of NASCAR’s top drivers, Jimmie Johnson, could join us to recognize the program’s top readers was a fitting wrap-up to a successful summer for these bright young minds we honored today.”

“We’re happy and honored to be part of the local community here and rewarding the kids for their efforts in reading so many books. Our sport does a fantastic job of giving back to the communities that we race in and surround the tracks where we compete. I’m proud of Darlington Raceway in what they’ve done here and 27 smiling kids here who I got to pass out awards to,” said Johnson after the ceremony.

The program saw nearly 800 students participate, a 10 percent increase over 2016. Students read a book, went to the library, and took an Accelerated Reading test that graded on their efforts.

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