Add Myrtle Beach Speedway to the list of once popular NASCAR tracks that are or soon will be lost to time.
After a concerning post on the track’s official Facebook page in February that discussed possible re-development plans for the area, Myrtle Beach Speedway announced last week that August 18 would be the final race at the facility before it permanently shutters operations.
The loss of Myrtle Beach is another brutal reality check for short track competitors on the eastern side of the United States, who have seen facilities like Concord Speedway, East Carolina Motor Speedway, Coastal Plains Raceway and more close their doors to the public in just the last five years alone.
It would be easy to talk about the long, six-decade history of Myrtle Beach Speedway and how several national touring series have come and gone during that time, with names like David Pearson, Ned Jarrett, Mark Martin, Elmo Langley, Bobby Gill, Doug Coby and several others all claiming at least one checkered flag at the track.
Myrtle Beach’s closure will undoubtedly have its effects on all of the local drivers who have continued to compete in weekly events at the track over the past several years, but the facility’s demise also hits home for me, as I attended my first NASCAR race there with my mom, dad and grandparents all the way back in 1999.
My memories of that day have unfortunately faded away as time as progressed, but a few moments still stick out in the present day, such as the cloudy weather that dominated the forecast and the long lines of traffic filled with ecstatic NASCAR fans who were waiting to see the veterans of the Busch Series clash with future stars like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Dave Blaney.
I recently re-watched the 1999 Myrtle Beach 250 on YouTube a month ago, and its honestly a surprise that no one in my family who attended the race that night remembers more of the events that transpired. Along with Earnhardt Jr. being involved in two accidents after starting on pole, Jason Keller had the race wrapped up until he cut a tire with three laps to go, handing the win to Jeff Green.
The final Busch Series race at Myrtle Beach was held the following year, but the track remained an integral part of short track culture in the East Coast with its weekly schedule of events that culminated into one of the most prestigious Late Model Stock races in November with the Myrtle Beach 400.
When I joined RACE22.com back in 2017, the Myrtle Beach 400 was one of the first races I had the privilege of covering for the outlet, but it proved to be a big evening for the track in general, as auto racing fans around the United States had the opportunity to watch drivers like Lee Pulliam, Josh Berry and Timothy Peters battle for the win courtesy of a tape-delayed MAVTV broadcast.
The racing that those fans and myself saw that evening was far different than previous stock car racing events at the track, as the abrasive surface at Myrtle Beach put a greater emphasis on tire conservation, which forced drivers to ride at half-throttle for a majority of the feature in large packs typically seen at Daytona and Talladega.
Although the style of racing had its fair share of detractors, tire conservation turned events like the Myrtle Beach 400 into prolonged chess matches where drivers did everything possible to push each other while saving their equipment for the end of the event, all of which created one of the most unique environments in the southeast.
I plan to attend at least one more race at Myrtle Beach before the track ultimately closes its doors in a few months, as there are very few auto racing facilities in the world that enable drivers to play mind games with one another in regards to conservation, and a lot of fans will miss those kinds of events once Myrtle Beach is replace with suburban homes.
While the decision to sell Myrtle Beach to developers makes sense from a financial aspect, in reality, the track could still be an ideal venue for a Gander Outdoors Truck Series or Xfinity Series events with a shopping center and restaurants such as Ruby Tuesday, Chick-Fil-A and Outback Steakhouse all within walking distance of the facility.
Myrtle Beach would obviously have to undergo several renovations to attract a major NASCAR race, but such an investment could pay dividends in the long-term with the sanctioning body expressing a desire to bring the sport back to its roots during the current decade.
Despite the optimism shared by several executives, short tracks around the country are continuing to follow a similar path to Myrtle Beach while others are expected to endure economic hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so NASCAR needs to act on their ambitions fast if they wish to revisit those roots.