Myrtle Beach Speedway revs up entertainment with new live music stage

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The area behind the south wall at Myrtle Beach Speedway once held bleachers, but is now being renovated to include a live music stage, bar and concessions area.

For race fans – whether it’s the roar of a race car, the purr of a finely tuned motorcycle or the wail of an electric guitar – usually the louder can you get, the more fun you’re having.

Taking this “louder is better” philosophy to heart, the Myrtle Beach Speedway has done its best to meet fans’ needs this offseason, adding a number of new offerings to its already jam-packed lineup of racing action.

“We’ve always been a racetrack, but there’s only so much you can do on asphalt,” said general manager Steve Zacharias. “We have 48 acres of land here, so we figure we might as well use it.”

Since coming under new ownership in 2012, the long-running track – built in 1958 as Rambi Raceway – has added new attractions to the mix each year, introducing a weekly stunt show, the NASCAR Racing Experience driving attraction and other special events.

This year the crew at the speedway has taken another step forward in providing more entertainment options, ramping up its bike week offerings and adding a new live music area on site.

They’ve also focused on freshening up the property this offseason, doing a lot of painting and small renovations like making the restrooms more “female friendly,” as well as making organizational changes to allow for more diversity and larger events.

“We would always end up doing a lot of preparation when we put an event on, so now we’re trying to over-prepare so that when something comes up we’re ready to go,” said Zacharias.

Mechnical bull riding was part of the fun at the inaugural Myrtle Beach Bikefest event at Myrtle Beach Speedway in 2013.

Myrtle Beach Bikefest kicks off season

Kicking off the 2014 season at the speedway will be the five-day Myrtle Beach Bikefest, a ramped up version of last year’s inaugural event which will feature more vendors, more entertainment and — hopefully – more attendees.

“It’s the beginning of all of it,” said Zacharias. “This should be a great season, and what better way to start it than with Bike Week.”

The event will take place May 13-17 with about 25 vendors set up in the parking lot and throughout the speedway grounds as well as activities and live entertainment.

The plans for this year’s Myrtle Beach Bikefest include biker-friendly events such as poker runs, NASCAR Experience ride-alongs, a custom bagger bike show, pole dancing contests, Rhett Rotten’s Wall of Death, an appearance by the Strip Club Choppers and the chance for bikers to ride their motorcycles around the speedway’s 0.538-mile asphalt track.

“It’s kind of a unique thing where you can come out and for $5 you can drive your bike around the track for six or seven laps. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Zacharias.

There will also be celebrity guests, including Michele Smith and Jay Barbieri, former hosts of SPEED Channel’s “American Thunder” and Discovery Channel’s “Two Wheel Thunder.”

On-the-track action during the event will include a NASCAR Whelen Series race on Tuesday, Wheels of Destruction stunt show on Wednesday, late model racing on Thursday, AMA Supercross racing on May 16 and Super Moto racing on May 17.

“We really couldn’t fit much more stuff into Bike Week,” he said.

General Manager Steve Zacharias shows off the area where bleachers used to be behind the south wall at Myrtle Beach Speedway. Beginning with Myrtle Beach Bikefest, this area will hold a stage and live music events.

Adding live music to the mix

Even with a jam-packed schedule of bike and racing events, one of the biggest draws for the speedway’s bike week festivities will be the music, which will take place on a brand-new live music stage just outside the walls of the track.

The new stage will consist of a 30-foot by 40-foot wooden deck covered with metal siding and a roof and flanked by sound and lighting equipment.

“Basically it’s a deck and a carport that we’re turning into a stage,” said Zacharias. “We’ve already got Blu Energy Drink and Budweiser giving us banners and lights to dress it up and it’s going to work out really great.”

The area surrounding the stage formerly held bleachers, but the track’s ownership decided to remove more than 1,000 seats this offseason – selling them to a track in Canada – in order to make room for a live music area which will hold between 3,500 to 4,000 fans.

According to Zacharias, creating a live music area at the track has always been in the plans since current track CEO and NASCAR Racing Experience founder Bob Lutz became co-owner in 2012.

“His dad had owned a couple racetracks in upstate New York and he’s always had concerts, so it’s something he’s always wanted to do and it’s something that’s familiar to him … he knows that world,” he said.

While there’s definitely a possibility of more special events in the future, current plans for the stage are to bring it up to speed gradually, integrating it as part of the Myrtle Beach Speedway experience.

“We’re trying to be us, but with a little added twist,” said Zacharias. “We’re going have our races and then a concert following the race as part of the whole fun of it … not just the concert randomly by itself.”

That said, it seems the speedway hasn’t wasted any time in making a splash with its live music offerings, booking its first major show before the paint is even dry on the new stage.

As part of the Myrtle Beach Bikefest entertainment lineup that already includes Massachusetts-based guitarist Dan Lawson and his band, the speedway will also be hosting nationally-known rock band Buckcherry.

The Grammy-nominated act will perform May 14, beginning at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased online at Etix.com.

“If we can pull it off, we’re thinking this sort of stuff will be happening more often since we have the space to do it,” said Zacharias.

Other shows lined up for what the speedway is calling its “NASCAR Concert Series” include N.C.-based singer Kenny Floyd on June 21, Charlotte Reggae Rock band Simplified on July 3 and Grammy-nominated songwriter Will Hoge – who’s song “Strong” is featured in Chevrolet’s Silverado truck ads – on Aug. 2.

“We see this year as a building year for us [with live music]. We hope to do some local and regional bands and maybe even a battle of the bands or some things like that,” said Zacharias. “And then once we have everything in place and are ready to go, in 2015 we can put together an actual schedule with bands that will really turn some heads.”

For more information on the speedway call 1-877-RACE-LAP (722-3527). For a full schedule of live music, races and other events visit MyrtleBeachSpeedway.com or check out more information on the bike week events at MyrtleBeachBikefest.com.

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