An eventful 2020 Late Model season came to a close in the South Carolina 400 at Florence Motor Speedway on Saturday evening, with Ty Majeski taking the checkered flag over NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series champion Josh Berry in his first venture into the discipline.
Nestled towards the end of pit road were a pair of #22 Late Models. Former ValleyStar Credit Union 300 and Myrtle Beach 400 winner Robert Powell piloted a red and white car while 1998 NASCAR Weekly Series Atlantic Seaboard Region champion Charles Powell III carried a blue paint scheme.
The weekend was emotional for the Powell family with track promoter Steve Zacharias and his staff paying tribute to former Florence track promoter Charlie Powell, who passed away from COVID-19 earlier this year, but Charles was honored by the amount of support his family received from drivers and fans.
“I thought the racing was going to be the most fun part,” Charles said. “It ended up being the people that came. I had family members there that had never been to a race. They came to see us and honor [Charlie].”
Charles said that he had an 18-page notebook listing the names of everyone that helped him properly prepare ahead of the South Carolina 400 at Florence, which included fellow competitor Jason York and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner Ricky Benton.
With Majeski, Berry and so many other strong competitors entered for the prestigious race, Charles knew that he and Robert faced unfavorable odds of winning the South Carolina 400, but Robert started Saturday afternoon on a strong note by posting the fifth quickest time in the only Late Model practice.
Both Powells improved on their practice speeds in qualifying, but Robert’s time of 17.997 was only good enough for the 19th position. Charles, who was 17th in practice, narrowly edged out Robert with a 17.995 to line up 18th in the 35-car field.
The South Carolina 400 proved to be a struggle for the Powell brothers, as a mechanical failure relegated Charles to a 30th-place finish while Robert retired shortly following the Lap 100 break after sustaining damage to the front of his Late Model earlier in the evening.
Although Charles was hoping to have better showings in the South Carolina 400 for himself and Robert, he said it was an extreme undertaking just to field his entry and was thrilled to just strap in and compete at the track Charlie oversaw for so many years.
“It was a very emotional race,” Charles said. We didn’t run well at all but it was a great weekend for us to celebrate Charlie. I had like 18 sponsors on the car, and I appreciate everyone that helped me with it. We missed it a little bit but hopefully we’ll come back strong.“
Charles also praised Zacharias and his crew for putting together what he believed was one of the best events in recent memory at Florence. Charles appreciated the way Zacharias is running the facility and is confident Florence will continue to thrive under his direction.
“[Steve] respected [Charlie] and I do too,” Charles said. “He gave his life just to keep the racetrack open. Steve’s got that same kind of passion, and I think we honored [Charlie] the best way we could.”
Charles has not ruled out the possibility of competing in more Late Model races in 2021, but he said that he will talk to his wife before making a concrete decision.
Note: Skyler Whitfield contributed to this story.