Justin Milliken makes a lap around Myrtle Beach Speedway during one of the final races at the track. (Photo: Andy Marquis)

Justin Milliken’s final race at Myrtle Beach Speedway came to an unceremonious end on Lap 42 when he was collected in a multi-car accident that also involved Jeremy Burns and R.A. Brown.

After Milliken discovered that his battered #02 Late Model would not fire, he got out of his car and proceeded to walk down the frontstretch, where he waved to an exuberant home crowd that had come out to watch the last race at the historic facility.

“When I was sitting in that car, I knew I needed to finish this race,” Milliken said. “I was not going to get into that ambulance and ride towards the infield, and I wasn’t going to walk towards my trailer. I didn’t care if it started raining or if they tried to arrest me, I was going to finish that last lap.”

The first few seasons for Milliken at Myrtle Beach in the mid-2000s. saw him endure numerous challenges with his program after making the jump from go-karts to Late Models, as he often struggled to hold his own against track regulars like Stuart Ricks and Jason Calhoun.

As time progressed, Milliken figured how to navigate the abrasive surface of Myrtle Beach and emerged as a weekly favorite to win races alongside drivers like Sam Yarbrough, who would claim six Late Model championships at the track.

Milliken attributes his success at Myrtle Beach to all of the hard work and determination displayed by his team during the last decade, but he also expressed his gratitude to everyone in the industry that have enabled him to further grow and develop as a driver.

“I’m grateful for the experiences and the life-long friendships racing has given me here,” Milliken said. “Matt McCall, David West and Marcus Richmond have all helped me so much with my racing. They were already established, but they wanted to help out a young kid who sold toilets and worked on his car at night, and I’m just so proud of everything that we’ve accomplished.”

Milliken said that one of his most cherished memories at Myrtle Beach came during the 2017 season at the track, where he outdueled Lee Pulliam in an event on May 6 to claim a victory of his own, which he followed up with another victory one month later on June 3.

On July 21, Milliken’s life took a tragic turn when he and fellow Late Model competitor Terry Evans were involved in a traffic accident after leaving a practice session at Myrtle Beach. The crash left Evans in critical condition and he ultimately succumbed to his injuries on Aug. 2.

Milliken was unsure if he would be able to return to racing after fracturing both his L1 and T5 vertebra in the accident, but he wanted to win a championship in honor of his close friend in Evans and recovered from his injuries in time to return to the driver’s seat before the end of the 2017 season.

Although Milliken was unable to compete for a title that year, he enjoyed one of his best campaigns in 2018 by winning not only the Myrtle Beach Late Model track title over Yarbrough, but also the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series South Carolina State Championship.

Milliken enjoyed every win and championship he obtained at Myrtle Beach and also treasured celebrating those moments with his family, which he intends to put more emphasis on as he re-evaluates his career following the closure of the track.

“We obviously have a whole lot of work to do to our car,” Milliken said. “I’m probably going to take the rest of the year off. We’re a family team and we’re going to get ready to run next year and run a few races when we want to. I have a two year-old and a five year-old who starts kindergarten on Monday, so I’m looking forward to spending a few more weekends with my girls.”

Like every other driver in attendance on Saturday, Milliken expressed disappointment over the thought of never racing at Myrtle Beach again, but he considers himself fortunate that he was able to encounter so much success and stay competitive up until the track’s last race.