The loss of one race track has led to the rebirth of another in South Carolina. Florence Motor Speedway reopened on Labor Day weekend under the leadership of former Myrtle Beach Speedway General Manager Steve Zacharias and has received much support from the short track racing scene in the short time since.
The Timmonsville, SC facility is now set for their biggest event of the 2020 season. The Charlie Powell Memorial will be held over two separate weekends, with this weekend seeing the Limited Late Models, Super Trucks and Street Stocks competing in the South Carolina 250 on November 14.
Next weekend’s Charlie Powell Memorial action will see Florence’s version of the Myrtle Beach 400 when Late Model Stocks take part in the South Carolina 400. Super Late Models and the SMART Modified Tour will also join the card on November 21.
After what has been a roller coaster year for racers in the Palmetto State, Zacharias is looking forward to what the Charlie Powell Memorial will bring.
“It’s been a crazy year, for sure. I’m excited about the upcoming Charlie Powell Memorial and the 400 weekend here at Florence. I can’t even explain 2020 at this point, the destruction of Myrtle Beach Speedway hurt a lot but we had no choice to keep digging,” Zacharias said during an appearance on Speed51’s “The Bullring.” “We put our heads down and got into Florence. We’ve had good racing and the car count’s been there, the fans have been coming. It’s been exciting, I’m looking forward to the next two weeks and after that.”
The support the event has received has come in a big way. While on the show, Zacharias mentioned the Limited Late Models have already received over 30 entries for their 100-lap feature Saturday night, while the Super Trucks and Street Stocks have also seen strong numbers.
The entry list for the Late Model Stock Car race on November 21 is shining with some of the biggest stars in the sport. Super Late Model ace Ty Majeski, JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry and former NASCAR Truck Series driver Timothy Peters are all on the current entry list.
“It’s been overwhelming and I think we’re getting this support because we have the same passion,” he stated. “I think we’re all enjoying this together. We love racing, we love putting on the best show we can. I try to make it enjoyable, whether it means making the entry easy to get in, the tire and fuel area easy to operate, the food good. For the drivers, this is a hobby for some of them but they don’t want to come in and be miserable all weekend. They need to enjoy themselves.”
The Charlie Powell Memorial and South Carolina 400 is scheduled as a replacement to the Myrtle Beach 400, which was considered one of the Late Model Stock crown jewels. Next weekend’s 225-lap race will see some changes, such as a 28-car field compared to the Myrtle Beach 400, which has started over 40 in recent years.
Other than that, it has been business as usual as Zacharias and his team shift their work over to a new track.
“We’ve tried to copy the Myrtle Beach Speedway recipe. Here we are with the Myrtle Beach version of the 400 but when this is all said and done and what the season looked like as a whole and a small sample size, we can plan better for 2021. The 400 looks exactly like it is now and it probably will be going forward. When we can look at it and dissect it and say this is what needs to happen.”
A lot of work has also gone into the facility itself since purchasing Florence Motor Speedway earlier this year, with the highlight being a new set of grandstands that were once situated just down the road at Darlington Raceway.
A former restaurant owner before he stepped into managing racetracks, he had a couple other new changes to Florence he is proud of.
“I think the grandstands would be my biggest accomplishment. I’m surprised with how far we’ve gotten with that. We got another run done this past weekend and we’ll have more done this upcoming weekend. We took the bleachers and thanks to local help from a man named Danny Johnson, we got bleachers from Darlington when they tore down a couple sections. He donated them to Florence Motor Speedway.
“I’m excited about the food. I know it’s a weird thing to be excited about but the two things that people complained about Florence were bathrooms and food,” he added. “The bathrooms are actually a storage container we got from Myrtle Beach. That was one problem, we fixed that and moved on to food. I used to own a restaurant up there in Harrisburg and I moved down to try to make quality food.”
Just like the numerous amount of drivers set to head to Florence over the next two weekends, Zacharias also feels like he has something to prove with the Charlie Powell Memorial South Carolina 250 and 400. A successful two weeks would give them a head start in putting the weekend and the 400 in particular up on the same level as what the Myrtle Beach 400 was.
“We’ve got these next two weekends to prove ourselves that this is a big event and make sure it’s like what the Myrtle Beach 400 was. I want this race, especially with Charlie’s name on it, to say it’s a big race in the Southeast like Martinsville, where the Myrtle Beach 400 was, the Thanksgiving Classic.”
“Charlie (Powell) created Florence Motor Speedway and we’re just trying to make it as great again as we can be. He’s looking down and I hope this is what he wanted to see.”
Click here to watch a replay of Monday’s episode of “The Bullring” on Speed51.TV.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: CARS Tour