FLORENCE, S.C. – Florence Motor Speedway owner Stacy Wiggins said in addition to building a 4/10-mile dirt track on its property, plans there for a drive-in also are in the works.
“When ‘Jaws’ came out in the ’70s, I remember watching it at the Central Drive-In at Florence,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins added he is not sure whether he will also demolish its 4/10-mile asphalt oval, which hosted races this season through June 15.
“Before that is answered totally, I’ve got to talk to one more person that did the same thing I’m doing,” Wiggins said. “There was one man that took the asphalt up and a man who didn’t take the asphalt up. And, I want to talk to the other one face to face before I do that. I want to see what the pros and cons are.”
Florence Motor Speedway, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a Late Model Series race in 1996, announced its track change on Facebook on Monday night. After Steve Post, a pit reporter for the Motor Racing Network, alerted Earnhardt on Twitter about Florence Motor Speedway’s plans to race on dirt from now on. Earnhardt tweeted, “Woah.”
Florence Motor Speedway, which was built in 1982, actually opened as a dirt track and was paved for the 1988 season.
“It was a very fast track when it was dirt,” Wiggins said.
To go back to dirt, Wiggins said it would cost $100,000.
“The time frame for this is very soon,” said Wiggins, who estimated it would take 600 to 700 yards of red clay to do this. “I’ve got to move some walls, some infrastructure inside the race track. It’ll take a little bit to get stuff moved around.”
Wiggins sounded confident this is the way to go.
“It’ll be an investment for our sport,” Wiggins said. “It’s going to take a while. But it’s going to do what needs to be done, and I’m willing to do that. I have a deep, deep passion for racing. Nobody can say I don’t have a passion for racing, and it runs deep in my blood. We want to preserve racing, and I just think dirt is the way it’s going to be.”
Wiggins then went more into his decision.
“One reason is the economy,” he said. “Another is that the interest in asphalt racing as far as NASCAR and local short-track racing is helping push what I’m doing. On dirt tracks, the expense of running dirt is less expensive than running asphalt.
“They don’t have to buy tires all the time. Asphalt tracks wear out tires every week. The fans want dirt. The dirt tracks that are out there are full. Asphalt tracks? Hardly nobody in the stands. It’s competitive on asphalt, but it’s a lot more competitive on dirt.”
Wiggins then talked more about attendance.
“People will get in the truck on a Saturday and drive 200 miles to a dirt track,” he said. “You can hardly get them to drive 25 miles to an oval asphalt track. Look at the stands at Darlington Raceway. They’re taking seating out at Darlington right now.”
As part of Darlington Raceway’s renovations since January 2018, the track’s seating capacity closest to that track was trimmed by 11,000 to make way for a “Wall of Honor” at the bottom of the front and back straightaway grandstands. Darlington, which had a 58,000 seating capacity (not including infield) in International Speedway Corporation’s 2018 annual report, was listed at 47,000 in the 2019 report.
Now, Wiggins is going full forward with his new direction.
“I just think that the interest is in dirt, and I think that’s the way to go,” Wiggins said. “I had all the intentions when I bought the track to go dirt and didn’t do it.
“And then an avenue came up. There was a piece of land purchased that had the dirt on it to do what I need it to do. And the expense right now would be very minimal versus what it’d cost if you go out and just bought the dirt to go on it.”
Wiggins is anticipating a mixed reaction.
“Some people will like it, and some won’t like it,” he said. “But I think more will like it as dirt than as asphalt.”