Florence Motor Speedway reopened under new management Friday night with the “Prelude to the Southern 500,” headlined by a 100-lap Late Model Stock feature. Many of the drivers in that race were making their first appearance at the South Carolina 4/10-mile oval, competitors who were previously regulars at Myrtle Beach Speedway before it closed in August.
Across the board, many of those first-timers had one word to describe their first trip to Florence – fun.
The last driver to win a Late Model Stock race at Myrtle Beach became the first driver to win at Florence under its new ownership group, which includes former Myrtle Beach General Manager Steve Zacharias. Sam Yarbrough assumed the lead from Jason York on lap 44 and would maintain the top spot for the rest of the 100-lap race.
“I’ve always been good the first time I go to places. I usually stink up the show the next time,” Yarbrough told Speed51. “The car was really solid. I have to thank Robert Elliott, Chad McCumbee, all the guys who sweat their a– off all day.
“I wasn’t really sure what was going on the first 15 laps of the race. I finally figured out the line and kind of checked out. I tried to save as much as I could for a late-race caution if that happened, but I felt pretty good.”
Yarbrough described Florence as a track which puts a lot in the drivers’ hands, with multiple grooves and surprising speed.
“It drives bigger than it looks. It’s a fun track to drive. Lots of options, as far as what line you can run, how you can manipulate it. It is a really fun track to drive. I was worried about not having a wall when I got here, but you get out there and you don’t even think about it.”
Casey Kelley finished second, one of the Florence Motor Speedway locals playing host to the new guests. Kelley expects even more drivers to start making the trip to Florence once they hear more about the fun racing from Friday night.
“These guys are fast, and they’re gonna come,” said Kelley. “All the good cars, these are good Late Model Stock Cars, the best you can race anywhere. I think there are going to be more cars next race.
“This is my home track, I live about 15 minutes away. I love racing here, it’s so much fun. You can race side-by-side for however many laps you want to.”
Perry Patino rounded out the podium in his first Florence Motor Speedway start. The Montgomery, Alabama native drew a comparison to another Alabama track when describing Florence.
“It’s fun. If anyone has been to Mobile International, it’s kind of a mini-Mobile,” said Patino. “It’s cool, with no backstretch wall. It’s fast. It’s got a lot of grip. It’s a cool place, pretty fun place.”
Patino’s Rev Racing teammate, Rajah Caruth, was the closest to challenging Yarbrough for the victory. However, a mechanical issue with his entry brought an early end to his night.
“We blew up with about 20 to go. We had something amiss, something blew oil back and smoked it out. I really don’t know. We were running hot at least halfway. I put the fan on to keep it cool and it just didn’t cool back down.”
Despite the disappointing end, Caruth spoke highly of the track and the new ownership group.
“My first time in Florence, this is like year one, race 10. It’s very cool, I’m very thankful. It’s awesome. It’s unfortunate the Beach got shut down, but everybody came and put this race together, everything ran smooth tonight.
“I’m sure everybody in the stands had a good time, too. This facility’s great. I had never run at a place without a wall on the backstretch. It’s a cool place.”
Fans who missed Friday’s racing will be able to see highlights on Speed51.TV in the coming days from throughout the evening.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo
Florence Motor Speedway Unofficial Results – September 4 LMSC 100
- Sam Yarbrough
- Casey Kelley
- Perry Patino
- Jamie Weatherford
- Gracie Trotter
- Isabella Robusto
- RA Brown
- JJ June
- Gilbert King
- Ryan Glenski
- Jason York
- Rajah Caruth
- Anthony Adams
- David Roberts