With the closure of Myrtle Beach Speedway set for August, everyone from drivers to employees at the historic facility will be looking elsewhere to fulfill their racing needs. While on “The Bullring” to talk the final months of racing at the South Carolina racetrack, General Manager Steve Zacharias had some news to announce for the future.
“It’s been a pleasure to see what Myrtle Beach was and what it is today and we’re excited to see the potential of doing that again. We’re excited to be working on some stuff. None of it’s official, I’ll have an official press release here shortly, but we’re taking over Florence Motor Speedway,” Zacharias said. “After July 6 we’ll be taking over Florence Motor Speedway. We’re going to take this opportunity to try to turn Florence Motor Speedway into what Myrtle Beach Speedway is today.”
Florence Motor Speedway is a 4/10-mile situated 75 miles west of Myrtle Beach in Timmonsville, SC that runs weekly. With the impending closure of Myrtle Beach, it gives Zacharias an opportunity to duplicate what he and his crew have done at Myrtle Beach.
“Charlie Powell did a good job working with that track and he’s getting to an age where it’s harder and he’s ready to pass the reins over himself. We’ll take it over and see if we can bring all of our friends and family with us and have good events at Florence Motor Speedway.”
One of those events that they are planning is an event similar to the Myrtle Beach 400, dubbed the Fall Classic. The Myrtle Beach 400 is one of the Late Model Stock Car crown jewels in the Southeast, highlighted by a 225-lap Late Model Stock event. Drivers like Jody Ridley, Gary St. Amant, Scott Riggs, Timothy Peters and Lee Pulliam have all won the event, with Frank Deiny, Jr. having won the most with five trophies in his name.
With the absence of a crown jewel, he hopes this will replace the Myrtle Beach 400 as a marquee event.
“With the 400 not being there, our plan is to run a version of the 400 exactly how it is here, but do the Fall Classic at Florence Motor Speedway. We’re going to take what we did at Myrtle Beach Speedway and do it up there. Rules, purse, racing, we just want to duplicate what we’re doing at Myrtle Beach Speedway but at Florence Motor Speedway.”
Zacharias took over Myrtle Beach nine years ago and brought a resurgence to the track in terms of car count across the board. Despite car counts increasing over the years, the track struggled to bring in fans week in and week out. He tried everything he knew to attract fans to Myrtle Beach, even enlisting the help of former Hooters Pro Cup Series President Gene Cox before he passed away in 2015.
“If you can remember Gene Cox with the Hooters Pro Cup Series, he really got behind me when we first started and he said here’s all the things I did with the Hooters Cup Series to get fans. I went to mailboxes and put tickets in everyone’s mailboxes, I went to all the businesses and put tickets out at businesses. We did all the social media pushes we could.
“We’ve done free days, we’ve done cheap days, we’ve done buy one get one days, we’ve done car load days. Fan side, I feel like we covered the spectrum as to what to offer a fan and make it as reasonable or even non-reasonable to come and got no success.”
As they struggled to get fans in the stands, they remained positive and looked at what they were doing right. As car counts rose dramatically through the years, they focused on filling up the pits before putting their focus back into the stands.
“There was a challenge and a point where you felt defeated, but then you step back and say you know what, we’ve got a good thing going and we’re started to make some headway with the car counts, let’s focus on that and make that infield as strong as we possibly can,” he stated. “Once we can make that strong we can focus back on the grandstands.”
As Zacharias and his family get set for the next chapter of their lives at Florence Motor Speedway, he hopes the joy of going to the track every week remains. It’s part of the reason why he does what he does.
“That’s what my family enjoys about the racetrack. Once we arrive to the track our kids get out and run off with their friends or run off to Lee McCall and go talk to him because that’s just what they do. They love all the drivers and their families, so to come to the racetrack for them is amazing because they jump out and have a good time.”
Click here to watch a replay of Zacharias’s interview on “The Bullring”.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Florence Motor Speedway Facebook