It took just one running of the South Carolina 400 at Florence Motor Speedway for the spiritual successor of the Myrtle Beach 400 to become a must-see instant classic.
And based on the entry list for Saturday in Timmonsville, it became a must enter event, too.
There are 52 Late Model Stock Cars on the grounds, up from the 33 that entered the inaugural running in 2020, an unheard-of increase of 19 cars.
Ty Majeski, driving for Chad Bryant Racing outdueled Josh Berry, in a race of the year contender that saw both short track heavyweights conserve their tires throughout the first half of the race before charging through the field together.
The fifth-mile bullring is a competitive equalizer and the abrasive pavement rewards strategy over pure speed. Steve Zacharias is a popular promoter who inspires entries like no one else in the discipline. This isn’t the Myrtle Beach 400, but the South Carolina 400 has very quickly become a big deal race.
Majeski has spent most of his driving time behind the wheel of his No. 91 Super Late Model this season, but definitely wanted to return after his one-off triumph 12 months ago.
"I wanted to race with Chad a little bit more this year, but the schedule didn't work out," Majeski said. "We were going to run Martinsville together, but they were able to put together a deal for Sammy (Smith) so that's still on the bucket list.
"But I definitely wanted to come back here after having so much success last year and we definitely have enjoyed racing here in a quick amount of time."
Majeski won that race last year, by the way, after spending most of practice day replacing an expired engine. As luck would have it, Majeski and Bryant immediately were forced to replaced an engine on Thursday before testing too.
"We got it done pretty fast and were able to run some laps pretty late just to make sure there were no leaks and could fire off today," Majeski said. "Last year, at Midnight, I made the Hardees fried chicken run for everyone down the road and did the same thing last night, so hopefully the result is the same."
Majeski has a teammate this year in Smith, who has won both the Winchester 400 and Florida Governor’s Cup in a season in which he also captured the ARCA East championship and is now targeting a Late Model Stock major at Florence.
"They won this race last year with Ty, and that gave us a really good baseline to start from, but it’s a different race this year with no tires."
To that point, due to the national tire shortage, the race will go 150 laps on the same four tires.
Brenden Queen won the Hampton Heat in 2020 against a similar stacked field to what entered Florence this weekend. At the same time, last year in this race didn’t go so well and he learned some lessons.
"If we make the show, we learned from last year from where we tried to run inside the top-10, and when it came to it, we fell straight back to outside the top-15," Queen said. "I couldn’t hold on. If we make the show, we’re definitely going to ride, and hopefully Mario will have some turtle shells to throw at them over the final 50 laps in this Old Skool Video Games No. 03."
Smith says he just needs to stay on the lead lap by Lap 100.
"A couple of years ago in the CARS Tour race, Nolan Pope won and the race kind of came to him because they did such a good job of saving tires," Smith said. "We have a pretty good plan and we're going to go out there and try to get Chad his second straight South Carolina 400."
For his part, the defending winner isn’t sure how much everyone should save, especially with no tires available in the pits at the competition caution.
"Last year, Josh and I were able to ride heavily and stay inside the top-10," Majeski said. "But the field is so much better this year so I think that might change the dynamic. Track position is going to be more important to a point.
"We just have to find the line of how far back can you go, and how hard can you push when it’s time to push. It’s the great equalizer."
Florence is the great equalizer and the South Carolina 400 is the newest crown jewel.
South Carolina 400
51 Matt Cox Longs, SC
32 Zack Miracle Monroe, NC
28 Ryan Glenski Mooresville, NC
5 Casey Kelley Darlington, SC
60 RA Brown Columbia, SC
70 Jeremy McDowell Conway, SC
10 Janson Marchbanks Anderson, SC
94 Jamie Weatherford Darlington,SC
16 Matt Linker Mount Pleasant, NC
99 Kade Brown Denver, NC
4 Travis Truett Conway, SC
99 Austin Somero Landrum, SC
15 Ryan Millington Statesville, NC
18 David Roberts Gray Court, SC
10 Regina Sirvent Concord, NC
02 Justin Milliken Shallotte, NC
8 Carson Kvapil Mooresville, NC
16 Chad McCumbee Ocean Isle Beach, NC
36 Neil Meredith Anderson, SC
55 Isabella Robusto Concord, NC
34 Lavar Scott Concord, NC
41 Magnum Tate Easley, SC
41m Tyler Matthews Beulaville, NC
2 Braden Rogers Huntersville, NC
1 Gracie Trotter Huntersville, NC
2 Brandon Pierce Oak Ridge, NC
55 Mark Wertz Chesapeake, VA
12 Timothy Peters Danville, VA
98 Stefan Parsons Concord, NC
22 Bobby McCarty Madison, NC
4 Connor Jones
44 Justin Johnson Rougemont, NC
54 Connor Mosack
5 Dexter Canipe Jr Conover, NC
95 Jacob Heafner Dallas, NV
78 Corey Heim Davidson, NC
40 Taylor Satterfield Nicolson, GA
22 Sammy Smith Johnston IA
77 TY Majeski Seymour WI
03 Brendan Queen Chesapeake, VA
07 Averitt Lucas Manning, SC
13 Cody Kelley Darlington, SC
12 Annabeth Barnes Crum Charlotte, NC
27 Coy Beard Lexington, NC
61 Justin Hicks Thomasville, NC
77H Connor Hall Hampton, VA
88 Doug Barnes Forest Hill, MD
1 Trent Barnes Forest Hill, MD
15 Bryant Barnhill Conway, SC
43 William Sawalich Newton, NC
18 Jason York Reidsville, SC
5 Carter Langley