From Checkered Flag to Center Stage: Longtime dirt track race promoter Chris Tilley tries his hand at concert promotions

Feb. 6—For the past 20 years, Somerset resident Chris Tilley has spent nearly every weekend traveling throughout the southeastern United States region promoting dirt track racing.

From the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio to Belleville High Banks in Belleville, Kan. to Volusia Speedway in Barberville, Fla. and back to the Lake Cumberland Speedway in Burnside, CT Promotions owner Chris Tilley has traveled to work and help bring entertainment to legions of small-town dirt track race fans across the map.

But rainouts, race cancellations and the constant traveling every weekend began to take its toll on the local dirt car race promoter.

"About the middle of the [race] season I was getting burnout," Tilley admitted. "I didn't want to travel anymore and I didn't want to be on the road anymore.

"I had a passion for the sport and I still have that passion today, "Tilley said. "I went on to promote some pretty big events in the industry. Some have made money and some haven't made money.

"The industry itself has changed," he added. "There's more money in it now than anything. And it's hard for someone like myself that doesn't have unlimited pockets to be able to compete with trying to run a national tour, work a full-time job and own your own business. And I feel like 2023 was a big hit to us, because we lost 29 races due to rainouts and cancellations."

It was at that point that Tilley knew there had to be some other way to use his promotional skills with less travel and that was not so much dependent on 'Mother Nature'.

"A group of people I'm friends with, and Noel [Hargis], helped bring it up me that the Blackwood Brothers Gospel Quartet had just hired Jimmy Rogers out of Nancy, as their tenor," Tilley stated.

Having met the local singer at a local eatery, Tilley reached out with the idea of promoting the Blackwood Brothers for a concert at the The Center for Rural Development. Tilley relied on his 20 years as a racing promoter to garner interest in the gospel quartet's performance.

"We scheduled it in July and did the concert in October," Tilley stated. "It was a huge success, and it was the first concert I ever put on. We had a big crowd here at The Center theater.

Tilley and CT Promotions is now promoting its second big event at The Center for Rural Development with the Bellamy Brothers performing on Saturday, Feb. 10, along with local talent Steve Taylor.

"My key objective is getting music out to the local people and give them something to do in this area," Tilley stated. "We need a few more things to do where people can get out and enjoy other activities. Country music is big in this area because Nashville is just a few hours down the road.

"I want to promote concerts with the same principles I have in dirt racing — keep our ticket prices reasonable, where people and families can afford to come to an entertainment event," Tilley explained. "Believe it or not, promoting dirt track races and promoting concerts have a lot of the same similarities. You have a different clientele, but your promoting principles don't change. Your key objective is to put people in the seats, whether it be in a theater or in the bleachers at a racetrack. Old school promoting still works. Word of mouth, newspaper, radio, social media and we actually put up flyers in different places to promote our events."

Despite his newest ventures in promoting musical concerts, Tilley will still be very active in the dirt track racing industry. As a matter of fact, Tilley will still own and promote the Valvoline American Late Model Iron-Man Series in Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio; as well as promoting the upcoming South Central Kentucky Dirt Car Racing Hall of Fame event at The Center for Rural Development on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Tilley was grateful for the help of his father Allen Tilley, Noel Hargis, and the late Harold Hargrove for giving him the opportunity to learn about the dirt car racing industry.

"I got started [in dirt track racing] at Lake Cumberland Speedway in Burnside, when I was 12 years old and I started working for Harold Hargrove at his track," Tilley recalled. "I went from parking cars to working in the concession stand to working in the scoring tower. I later announced for many years because one night the announcer didn't show up and Harold held the microphone and said, 'Do it'. I guess that is how a lot of people get started."

By the time Tilley turned 18 years old, he promoted his first big dirt track event at Barren County Speedway in Glasgow, Ky.

"During that time I was working with a couple traveling series here and there while trying to promote a few on my own, and getting my feet wet in the business," Tilley stated. "I've been very blessed to be able to get to work my way up in the racing industry. In 2011, I was able to own my own series for the first time and travel with it in Tennessee and Kentucky. So many people along the way have helped me as well. I'm so very fortunate to have met some wonderful people along the way that have helped me in this industry and I couldn't have done it without them."

CT Promotions will announce their next big concert act this Saturday (Feb. 10) at The Bellamy Brothers concert and they plan on bringing back the Blackwood Brothers Quartet later in November. CT Promotions upcoming events can be found at

Contact Steve Cornelius at