Florence Motor Speedway’s Steve Zacharias continues positive momentum with IceBreaker: ‘Just trying to make it better every year’

Florence Motor Speedway’s IceBreaker is quickly becoming one of Late Model Stock Car racing’s biggest events, having grown exponentially since it was first held at the now-defunct Myrtle Beach Speedway in 2016.

Steve Zacharias, the owner of Florence Motor Speedway, said the creation of the IceBreaker stemmed from the desire to make Myrtle Beach Speedway a year-round facility rather than a track that only operated during the summer months.

“When I first got to Myrtle Beach, Brian Vause, the general manager at Florence now, him and I were trying to grow Myrtle Beach Speedway,” Zacharias said. “We were looking at other events, monster trucks, fairs, car shows. What are things that would make a race track like Myrtle Beach viable throughout the entire season?

“We sat down and brainstormed and looked, at that time nine years ago, the schedule to make sure it didn’t conflict with anything. We figured with Daytona starting to gear up around that time, it might work out to have another race to open the season with.”

RELATED: Everything to know about the 2024 IceBreaker

The idea turned out better than Zacharias ever could have hoped. The inaugural race drew 22 entrants and was won by Tommy Lemons Jr.

The field included top stars from across the region like future NASCAR Xfinity Series winner Myatt Snider, three-time NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series national champion Lee Pulliam, Brenden Queen, Deac McCaskill, Chase Purdy and Anthony Alfredo, among others.

“It started off gangbusters. Everybody was into it, and it showed that it had some strength, and we just kind of built on it from there,” Zacharias said. “We just kept trying to grow it, no different than anything we do. Just trying to make it better every single year.”

Even with the closure of Myrtle Beach Speedway in 2020 and the relocation of the event to Florence the next year, the event has only continued to grow in prestige.

“The support from Myrtle Beach Speedway to carry it over and make it a success at Florence, that’s just a credit to the racers and the race fans that helped us continue the legacy of the IceBreaker,” Zacharias said.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 3 Mom N’ Pops Chevrolet, in action during the eighth annual IceBreaker at South Carolina’s Florence Motor Speedway on Feb. 11, 2023. (Photo: Jaylynn Nash/NASCAR)

The 2024 edition of the event has already received more than 31 entries, topping the field of 29 that entered one year ago.

Among the entries are NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr., reigning NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series National champion Connor Hall, defending event winner Doug Barnes Jr., South Carolina 400 victor Kade Brown and Florence Motor Speedway track champion Matt Cox.

“I had one of the drivers from the (South Carolina) 400, he signed up as he was leaving the 400,” Zacharias said. “He said, ‘I want to be the first on the list. Put me down.’ Everyone considers it one of the big races of the season, so the IceBreaker is now on everyone’s calendar as a big race.”

One of the most notable entrants the last few years is Earnhardt, who spent the early years of his career racing at Florence before he made it to the NASCAR Cup Series. He’s competed in events at Florence four times in the last few years, including the 2023 edition of the IceBreaker.

Having the support of someone like Earnhardt, a staunch supporter of short-track racing in general, has helped the Zacharias continue to grow events like the IceBreaker and the South Carolina 400 into regional crown jewels for Late Model Stock Car competitors hoping to make a name for themselves.

PHOTOS: Dale Jr. racing late models

Florence Motor Speedway
(Photo: Ted Malinowski/NASCAR)

“He has been just an amazing person to work with,” Zacharias said. “Anyone that would listen to me I would talk about how great he is and how into short-track racing he is. It’s an honor just to have a conversation with him, but for him to be spearheading and standing behind all of us right now, we should all be honored that he is keeping us going and making sure that short-track racing is going to be successful.”

Zacharias shares Earnhardt’s love for short-track racing, which is a big reason he purchased Florence following the closure of Myrtle Beach.

Being able to kick off the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series season in the Southeast with an event like the IceBreaker not only helps short-track racing, but it also shows just how dedicated the racers and the fans are as they help breathe new life into local racing.

“We always try to make events as good as they can be for everyone involved,” Zachrias said. “For the success of short-track racing and survival of short-track racing, it takes all of us. It takes the race track, it takes the racer to support it, it takes the fans to support it.

“To have marquee events like this, to start the season off and get the word out about us and what we’re capable of doing and to say we’ve got two of the premier races in the Southeast at one race track at Florence is again a credit to the racers and the fans for making it that way.”