MYRTLE BEACH, SC – Myrtle Beach Speedway drew the ire of fans and competitors alike when they waved the checkered flag on Sunday’s Myrtle Beach 400 at 11 pm, with 24 laps remaining in the race, due to curfew.
Myrtle Beach Speedway general manager Steve Zacharias said he had no choice because of an 11pm curfew and because cars had been on-track since 9 am on a Sunday. The decision is even more controversial, however, because of how races play out at Myrtle Beach regarding tire strategy – with drivers often riding around and waiting until the final 20 laps to make their moves.
“I didn’t want to put a time limit onto the Late Model event,” Zacharias told Race22. “Unfortunately, with some of the cautions and things that came up, time started stretching on and it got to the point where it’s 11 o’clock on a Sunday and tomorrow morning is school for most kids. So, forget the curfew, if we continued to go on, there’s probably going to be two or three more cautions, and next thing you know, it’s midnight on a Sunday.”
Zacharias said Horry County is very strict about curfew and noted that he had already used up a lot of good will within the community when a nearby church approved his request to begin on-track activity at 9 am.
“The county is very strict about our 11 o’clock curfew,” Zacharias continued. “With the neighbors, we already jumped ahead and did something out of the box when it comes to the church. We usually don’t start until 12 o’clock, but they were kind enough to say, ‘okay, you guys can start at 9 o’clock.’ So we were able to start early because of the church’s blessing.
“Now, we start early on a Sunday. We run late on a Sunday. It starts to get out of hand, and unfortunately, I feel that we were going to start having a lot more cautions and this thing would have really stretched out into the 12 am range, then we’re really in trouble.”
Tracks battling curfew is not an uncommon thing in the Southeast where promoters often try to run eight or more divisions on a single night and sometimes run a little past. In many instances, those tracks will pay a fine to the county. Those races also take place on Friday or Saturday in mid-summer, not on school nights in the middle of autumn.
On September 21st, Carteret County Speedway, which also faces an 11 pm curfew, ran well past that curfew after being plagued by scoring issues throughout much of the day – similar to Sunday at Myrtle Beach. The Swansboro, North Carolina track had already been rained out a couple of weeks prior and had not raced in over a month went ahead and raced every division despite being behind on time. While the track did complete the program sometime after 1 am, it has since faced scrutiny from the local government and has been warned that the 11 pm curfew would be strictly enforced in the future.
Complicating matters, the support division races were moved back later in the night so Carteret could get their Late Model and Legends features in – which drew the ire of competitors who patronize the track every week, as they raced after the fans had already left and possibly would not have been able to race had curfew been strictly enforced by the Town of Peletier or Carteret County.
For his part, Zacharias said he did everything he could to stay on schedule.
“We tried to line things up the best we can, but you’re talking about over 130 cars that are here with over 130 different people you have to deal with,” Zacharias explained. “You’re trying to get everyone organized, get to your car, where’s the driver at, you know what I mean? There are just a lot of logistics. We did the best we could.”
The Myrtle Beach 400 was supposed to be run on Saturday, but a major coastal storm drenched the coast of the Carolinas on Friday and Saturday with heavy rains and strong winds. Additionally, this was the first time the Myrtle Beach 400 was held over the course of a single weekend since 2014, which meant the track was essentially trying to fit what had traditionally been four days of on-track activity into a single day.
“This was our first time back with one weekend, and not only did we do one weekend, but we also had to squish it all into one day,” Zacharias remarked. “We were dealt a hand we played the best cards we could. At the end of the day, people will have their opinion. No different than any other race weekend. Anyone can run a racetrack if you ask them.”
While Zacharias noted the logistics behind the shortened ending, much of the criticism from drivers and fans have been aimed at how much time was spent in between qualifying sessions and races – delays that had run over a half an hour in once instance.
“I have some ideas in my head to speed up the qualifying and after-qualifying,” Zacharias noted. “It’s been six years since we’ve done one weekend. To get back into one weekend, to take everything and rain out, and make it in one day is crazy. I just make the decisions that need to be made for the racetrack. I made the one that was right for us for the future in town and hopefully people will understand that at some point.
“I apologize. That is not how I want to see the Myrtle Beach 400 end, but it’s how it had to end.”
Race22’s Brandon White contributed to this report.