FLORENCE, S.C. — This weekend was going to be a memorable one at Florence Motor Speedway for longtime owner Charlie Powell regardless as it marks the final race before Myrtle Beach Speedway general manager Steve Zacharias assumes control on a lease-to-own basis.
Fortunately, Powell will be able to go out with a bang — and with fans.
After getting the go-ahead from the state commerce department, FMS will host what Powell is calling a “Tailgate Pit Party” beginning at 5 p.m. in the infield Friday until fans are ready to leave.
“We’ve got about 400 spaces there where people can tailgate and still keep a safe distance apart,” Powell said. “They can bring their barbecue grills, music and games for the kids.”
On Saturday, the gates will open at 9 a.m. with races beginning at 7 that evening followed by a fireworks display that is scheduled for about 9:30 p.m., Powell said.
“We’ll practice cars until about 6 p.m. and then will have a drivers’ meeting and then our first race,” he said. “Anyone who wants to see the race can buy a ticket, but anyone who just wants to see the fireworks can park in our lot for no charge.”
The issue of allowing fans at FMS has been a contentious one between Powell and the Florence County Sherriff’s Office for several weeks now, but the matter is finally resolved, Powell said.
“I had to go through the process of going through the (state) commerce department,” Powell said. “We have a letter from them … I sent them a plan about distancing and safety issue, and all that was already in place at the race track anyway.”
The plan was reviewed and a few modifications were made, enabling FMS the opportunity to once again house spectators, Powell said.
“We’ve got plenty of space for everyone to show up and still follow the guidelines of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control),” he said. “We’ve actually got 40 acres of parking, so we’re probably a lot better equipped to follow social distancing orders than maybe other businesses.”
Getting fans back for what will be his last race as the main operator of the track was something Powell said he was grateful to have.
“That played a part in how hard I tried to get it to where we could run with fans because they’ve supported us through all of these years and I appreciate that,” he said.
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