Myrtle Beach Speedway closed its doors for the final time in January 2021. The 1/64 mile concrete oval was the home of Legends Race Cars and was one of the last remaining ovals in the country. It hosted the All Star Circuit of America in 2019 and despite being in the middle of a pandemic, it still managed to pull a crowd.
The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series has visited Myrtle Beach in the past, but it was at a time when the sport was not on the decline. Since then NASCAR racing has declined significantly in North America and Europe and the Euro Series has had to adapt to suit the new environment.
That said, the series still holds races in Europe and the continent is more than capable of supporting a top-notch motorsport championship. Nevertheless, the 2019 season was the final outing for NASCAR Whelen Euro Series drivers at the Myrtle Beach Speedway. The event was a significant blow to the series as it was one of the last races at a 1/64 mile concrete oval.
Last Racing Season
On January 17, 2020 NASCAR released a statement regarding the future of the All Star Circuit of America events:
“The health and safety of our fans, competitors, employees, and communities are our top priorities during these unprecedented times. We have decided to postpone the remaining three events at the end of this season (2020) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety concerns associated with holding large gatherings. We hope to see everyone at a later date when the safety protocols have been reestablished.”
The three remaining races at the Myrtle Beach Speedway were scheduled for May 20, June 17, and October 28th, but the pandemic put a stop to live sports events across the country. While some venues have tried to carry on with sports activities, safety protocols have limited spectators and the lack of a traditional sports calendar has put pressure on motorsport promoters to come up with new ways to get fans involved in the sport.
Myrtle Beach Speedway was never officially sanctioned by NASCAR. Nevertheless, the sanctioning body did license the speedway and allowed the series to use the facility on a limited basis. While traditional oval tracks have been closed down across America, several short tracks and road courses have popped up to keep fans engaged. The fact that the track was so close to the beach allowed for some unique twists that made the event a draw for anyone interested in seeing different race cars in action.
Last Race At A Concrete Oval
The fact that the last race at Myrtle Beach Speedway was one of the most significant events of the season is somewhat ironic considering the pandemic that put a stop to virtually all other forms of outdoor sports. Even before the pandemic, concrete ovals had lost a bit of their luster as the asphalt tracks of open road courses and other traditional sports drew more and more fans. The concrete dust that was a byproduct of the construction process made it hard for drivers to breathe and many complained about injuries to their lungs from the dust. Still, despite the health concerns, fans flocked to the concrete mounds for some high-speed action.
The last NASCAR Whelen Euro Series event at Myrtle Beach Speedway was won by Patrik Flitzberg and Joonas van Damme from the Netherlands. Flitzberg took the checkered flag ahead of van Damme and Switzerland’s Fritzi Müller.
Final Hurrah For The Ovals
While the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series was one of the last remaining sanctioning bodies to hold an event at the Myrtle Beach Speedway, other forms of motorsport have made the most of the last hurrah for oval tracks. The IndyCar Series visited the short track this year for the first time in eight years and the series was delighted to have the opportunity to race on such a historic track. IndyCar Series teams have visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the end of every season since it was founded, but this year’s race was the last hurrah for the oval track as it was demolished a few months later to make way for a road course layout.
New Tracks…New Opportunities
The opportunity to race on a brand-new track brought a huge amount of optimism to this year’s IndyCar Series event at the Myrtle Beach Speedway. The track was built with all the modern conveniences and features that the fans had come to expect from an IndyCar Series event including wide straightaways and an elevation change that makes for an exciting drive from start to finish. The new track was a triumph for the IndyCar Series and the end of the five-hour marathon brought tears of joy to everyone involved.
Since that time the IndyCar Series has continued its tradition of holding events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway despite the pandemic and is now in the process of expanding its season from five to six rounds. The series is also in the process of bringing back some of its biggest stars from suspension following the health concerns that were triggered by the pandemic. The opportunity to race at open-air tracks is something that the IndyCar Series will cherish going forward.
What Now For The Myrtle Beach Speedway?
When NASCAR Whelen Euro Series closed its doors for the last time at the end of January 2021, it left a massive void in the sports world. Despite the void, opportunities for the track still abound as it becomes the new home of a thriving motorsport community. There are already plans in the works to have another form of motorsport present at the venue by next year and 2020 has seen an explosion of motorsports in North America as the nation works its way through one of the deepest recessions in history.
With concrete ovals losing popularity due to safety concerns and the pandemic putting a stop to all other forms of outdoor sports, there is now a niche for short tracks and road courses in the sports community. The Myrtle Beach Speedway has a natural advantage in that it is situated near the beach and can draw from an eager audience of surfers and sunbathers who want to enjoy the thrill of motorsport while soaking up some rays. The beach itself is also a magnet for families and children who want to be enthralled by the excitement on display at a motorsport event. The fact that the event was licensed by NASCAR made it even more appealing to potential spectators as it was the last race on a “traditional” track for the legendary sanctioning body. Having a traditional track is also a selling point for potential corporate sponsors as they can align themselves with a brand-new and exciting motorsport franchise.
The future of the Myrtle Beach Speedway looks incredibly positive as there is already planning for the 2022 edition. The fact that the series is still looking for a title sponsor is a testament to the opportunity that this stadium represents. While the last race at a concrete oval was a somber occasion for everyone involved, the fans who turned out were treated to a display of high-speed adventure that they will not soon forget.