Myrtle Beach Speedway banking on live music

For Weekly SurgeJuly 9, 2014 

The stage at Myrtle Beach Speedway. Courtesy photo.

The half-mile, semi-banked oval track at Myrtle Beach Speedway has hosted top NASCAR drivers for more than 50 years. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (and Senior), Jeff Gordon, all the Petty men, the Waltrips, and many other future and hopeful NASCAR superstars, have honed their skills at this short, fast and exciting track. But NASCAR drivers aren’t the only stars hitting the asphalt. In 2001 the Speedway hosted jam band legend Widespread Panic in a concert drawing thousands for one of the biggest outdoor shows ever held in the area. If the current track owners have their way, those days of big outdoor shows may be returning en force and country artist David Lee Murphy is next up on July 18.

“The owner, Robert Lutz, comes from a family of racetrack owners,” said Myrtle Beach Speedway general manager Steve Zacharias. “His dad used to throw huge concerts in upstate New York at tracks he owned, so Robert wanted to explore doing the same thing here.”

Lutz and a few minority owner partners took ownership of the track in 2012, which was a little rough around the edges, not quite the shining example of its glory days in the 1990s when the Busch Series races were held there hosting large crowds. With a commitment to improvements and new money pouring in, the track rebounded and is seeing more racing action than in years past. But not unlike minor league baseball stadiums, the facility is healthiest when it hosts a variety of events, including the NASCAR Racing Experience, a do-it-yourself opportunity to race a real NASCAR vehicle at top speeds. Additionally Lutz pushed for a concert series, which began with rockers Buckcherry on May 14, during the spring Bike Rally.

“We had around 1,500 for the Buckcherry show,” said Zacharias. “We saw the potential. The placement of the stage means we’re shooting for crowds of 5,500 – up to around 7,000. If we get any bigger than that, we’re in new territory and would have to open up the infield, but we could fit a whole lot more in if we decide to go that route one day. We’ve got a lot of space out here.” The Buckcherry show was co-sponsored by Speedway neighbor, the Boathouse Waterway Bar & Grill, a venue that’s seen much success with its outdoor shows.

After a washout and cancellation of Simplified, originally scheduled for July 3, the day Hurricane Arthur came calling, Speedway management is focused on its next show, the aforementioned Murphy on July 18. Best known for his 1995 No. 1 Billboard Hot Country single, “Dust on the Bottle,” Murphy is also a well-respected songwriter penning “Living in Fast Forward,” for Kenny Chesney, “Big Green Tractor,” for Jason Aldean, and “Are you Gonna Kiss Me or Not,” for Thompson Square. Additionally, Murphy has written tunes for Toby Keith, Hank Williams, Jr., Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, and Eric Church.

“We scheduled David Lee Murphy during our Mustang Week,” said Zacharias. “We’re hosting 2,000 Mustang owners and their friends and families, so we’re expecting a great turnout and show. With [Murphy] you get to hear the artist who wrote the hits for the big stars doing the songs the way he wrote them. It’s really going to be very cool.”

Jason Michael Carroll, a country artist originally on the Arista label, is scheduled for Aug. 8.

Tickets for both the Murphy and Carroll shows are $20, a price point that Zacharias thinks will work best at the speedway. “We’re talking to additional artists for September and October, but don’t have anything to announce yet. We’re focusing on country artists for now, because NASCAR and country music go hand-in-hand.”

For more information visit www.myrtlebeachspeedway.com.

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