By Kurt Knapek - The Sun News
It came down to dollars and sense.
The USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series announced Saturday it will hold only one race at Myrtle Beach Speedway in 2008. Since 2001, the series has held two events here.
The event that was eliminated from the schedule has been traditionally held in the fall and was part of this year’s five-race championship series.
Next year’s lone date will be June 21, 2008.
“After the last race was over with [in October] they were ready to come back next year for both of them,” Myrtle Beach Speedway co-owner Billy Hardee said. “Everything was good. But they say [the fall race] is not a money-making race for them.”
Pro Cup Series Director Tony Cox said the decision to eliminate a race at Myrtle Beach was a “difficult one,” but that the speedway’s attendance for the fall race (about 6,000) was nowhere near the June race (nearly 10,000). Cox said he informed Hardee of the decision last week.
“I’m sure there’s disappointment, I don’t blame him,” Cox said. “In his shoes, I would feel the same way. At the end of the day, it’s a business decision.”
The change was one of several the Pro Cup Series has made to its schedule for the second consecutive year. In 2007, the series cut nine races (from 30 to 21) in an effort to allow more teams to run a full-time schedule.
In 2008, the series has added three venues not on the 2007 schedule - Rockingham (N.C.), Jennerstown (Pa.) and Milwaukee (Wis.) - and cut the number of championship races from five to four. The season will end at Rockingham next year. This year’s schedule concluded Saturday night in Lakeland, Fla.
What made the decision even more difficult is that Myrtle Beach Speedway is considered the “home track” by the Pro Cup Series, which is headquartered in Longs.
“We just decided we’re going to focus all of our efforts on the June Myrtle Beach race,” said Cox, who added he would not rule out a second race at MBS in the future. "We certainly hated not to return for the championship race. But our June event is probably one of our best events we have all year.
“I think everybody will see that this will pay dividends and we’ll make that crowd even a 12,000 to 13,000 crowd now. We think we can do that.”
ONLINE | To view Knapek’s auto racing blog ‘Pit Passes,’ go to MyrtleBeachOnline.com.
March 15 | Lakeland, Fla.
April 19 | South Boston, Va.
March 29 | Cecil, Ga.
April 26 | Concord, N.C.
May 31 | West Allis, Wisc.
June 14 | Mansfield, Ohio
June 21 | Myrtle Beach
June 28 | Salem, Ind.
July 12 | Radford, Va.
July 19 | Kenly, N.C.
July 26 | Jennerstown, Pa.
Aug. 2 | Hickory, N.C.
Aug. 9 | South Boston, Va.
Aug. 20 | Bristol, Tenn.
Aug. 30 | Mansfield, Ohio
Sept. 20 | Newton, Iowa
Oct. 18 | Lakeland, Fla.
Nov. 1 | Rockingham, N.C.
Contact KURT KNAPEK at 843-626-0258 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.