Step Up!

by July 4, 2012 1 comment

This past week I took off towards Myrtle Beach just like everyone else in South Carolina. When I was fighting the traffic, I was wondering what all these people were going to do once they got to the beach. There were hot college girls, northerners who couldn’t drive and locals who were just trying to get to their beach houses. When I got to the stop light in front of the Tanger Outlets, I realized that everyone went straight whereas me and a few others cars took a left.

I realized that hardly anyone knows what’s down that road on the left in front of the Tanger Outlets. While everyone else was going to the heart of Myrtle Beach to spend loads of cash, I decided to stay on the outskirts for the best entertainment down there that didn’t cost a week’s paycheck. The location is almost like a local secret. But the sad thing is that it’s not supposed to be a secret. Actually at one point in time, this location was the place to be. It was the world center of local racing. The place that I’m talking about is Myrtle Beach Speedway.

Back in the 90s and even early millennium, Myrtle Beach Speedway hosted some of the most competitive racing in the country. From the NASCAR Busch Series to the Hooter’s Pro Cup Series, the best of the best competed at the half mile speedway. However, after losing the Busch Series in 2000, the speedway just kind of went downhill after that. The track wasn’t kept up, and fans just didn’t seem to care anymore.

I remember seeing the backstretch packed with people sitting on the back of their tailgates and there wasn’t an empty seat to be found in the grandstands. The car counts were unbelievable as well. I didn’t grow up watching races at Dillon Motor Speedway or even Florence Motor Speedway. My dad and I always went to Myrtle Beach Speedway, primarily to watch Darlington native Hal Goodson compete and dominate.

Flashback to last year, there were serious questions pertaining to Myrtle Beach Speedway’s existence heading into the 2012 season. Thankfully, Bob Lutz and his team invested in the track. I’ve only been to two races this year at the speedway; one regular season event and then the specialty race this past week. The moment that I walked into the speedway this year, I could feel the change in the air. It didn’t look like a dump anymore. Back in November, the vultures made the speedway its home, literally. But ever since Lutz took over the speedway, good things have started happening.

The place has a fresh coat of paint, the hospitality suites are fantastic and this past weekend was the first race with the new experimental polymer coating applied to the high groove in the turns. Now, when you hear the word “experimental,” going over 100 mph, that usually isn’t very comforting. As soon as the first car hit the track for practice in the Mini Stock class, the staff found out that their experimental coating actually works, in fact, as the night went on, the coating didn’t just work, but it completely changed the way that drivers save their tires. The idea behind the coating is to make the high groove just as fast as the low groove so there’d be side-by-side racing.

The 100 lap Late Model race was a true testament to the new coating. It turns out that the same drivers who win on the weekly basis will still win on a weekly basis, but what the coating assists are the drivers back around the fifth position. The cars that are just on the verge of keeping up with the leaders really benefit from the new polymer coating. All the coating does is save tires and help cars on the outside keep up with the cars on the inside. I’m not sure if the new groove will really play a role in the regular 50 lap races, but it will certainly play a role in the 100 lap races.

The majority of the drivers still ran the low groove, but when two cars got side-by-side, they were able to fight for the position a little longer. The winner of the race said that the new groove assisted him in victory. He said that the low groove may be fast, but the new high groove saves the tires. This past week, the healthy grandstands saw a fantastic Late Model feature that had plenty of side-by-side racing.

“Tonight we definitely saw a difference with the new adhesion on the track,” Track announcer Bobi Summers said. “The Charger race had side-by-side racing all of the way through. It helps bring somebody back and forth in a position like fifth place. I really think it had a lot to do with the 22 Late Model stock cars that we had on the track. We had 10 different lead changes between about six different drivers.”

Myrtle Beach Speedway still has a long way to go, but what I’ve seen halfway through the season, is very impressive. If the speedway can make little changes at a time and not rush things, then maybe that left turn at the light in front of the Tanger Outlets won’t be a secret anymore. Maybe, just maybe, Myrtle Beach Speedway will get back to the way it was. Fans are anxious to see NASCAR’s premier series come back, but I say just hold on. Let the speedway grow. As for Bob Lutz and his crew, good job so far.

-Photo Credit That’s Right Photography

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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    #1 TERRY TURNER 4 July, 2012, 20:18


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