The 2021 Late Model Stock Car race season is just days away from starting for many drivers as Florence Motor Speedway is set to host the IceBreaker this Saturday, a race that has traditionally taken place at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
With the closing of Myrtle Beach, the tracks General Manager Steve Zacharias stepped up and took over Florence Motor Speedway which now assumes the reigns of two of the biggest races of the year, the South Carolina 400 and the IceBreaker. Last year the South Carolina 400 saw a field of 35 Late Models show up to put on one of the best races of the year and expectations for the IceBreaker are nearly as high.
With 27 cars pre-registered already for the IceBreaker, with names like Josh Berry, Bobby McCarty and Chad McCumbeeamong others, it’s shaping up to be just as good as last year’s race. Berry will be looking for redemption after losing in the closing laps to Ty Majeski last fall. A name some people might be sleeping on is Mark Wertz.
Wertz, who struggled throughout the practice sessions in November, found great speed in qualifying to start him 13th out of 33. Wertz rode around the top 15 the majority of the race, ultimately finishing in the 10th position, one lap down. The goals for the IceBreaker this year are simple but he thinks he needs to be spot on to secure a top-five and get a solid start on the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series season.
Wertz learned a lot about tire saving last fall and hopes to put it to good use this weekend.
“We learned this past race that discipline during the race is very important to manage the tires even if it means to ride and not force issues early in the race,” Wertz explained. “We also learned a few things in race trim that we need to adjust around and hopefully that will make us a little better this trip.”
Wertz took the last few years off from racing Late Model Stock Cars full-time to help groom upstart driver Connor Hall at Langley Speedway. Wertz did compete a full season last year in the Modified division at Langley Speedway, racking up three wins as well as the 2020 championship.
In 2021 Wertz is ready to chase another Late Model Stock Car track championship.
“We are coming back full force to try and win a Late Model track championship and see where the rest falls,” Wertz stated. “We will have 3 cars ready to go this year thanks to corvetteParts.net, Dunkin Donuts, Brandon’s Tree service, JJ Clearing and Demolition and BayPort Credit Union. We will try our best and see what happens. All in all, we hope to have fun as well.”
When Wertz says full-time, he means it. He’s planning to run 47 races between five tracks this season with starts at Langley Speedway, Dominion Raceway, South Boston Speedway, Florence Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.
According to Wertz coming out of retirement is as much about the partners he has as it is his desire to keep chasing championships.
“It feels great (to come out of retirement), but mostly I’m grateful to still have great partners who believe in our team enough to support us at this stage in my career,” Wertz continued. “I have been away from points racing as a driver long enough to know I miss it and still have the desire to race.”
Wertz is hoping this weekend is the perfect kickoff to what will be a long season for the veteran driver but he’ll have a field of likely more than 30 drivers just as hungry as he is to win. The IceBreaker is picking up at Florence right where it left off at Myrtle Beach Speedway and this weekend will be the beginning of a long and grueling season for drivers and the start of a season that brings a lot of excitement after a tough 2020.
Cover photo by Andy Newsome.