The old Orangeburg Dragstrip reopened at the end of February as the South Carolina Motorplex, drawing an estimated 10,000 people.
The crowd may be the largest since the racetrack opened in 1961. The new owner, Jeff Biegun, believes it was the start of something big.
"I think the race .... drew people from 400 to 500 to a 600-mile radius," Biegun said. He envisions it drawing folks from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
South Carolina Motorplex is gearing up to become the center of racing activity across the state and the entire Southeast, Biegun said.
"South Carolina is a hotbed for racing, so why not put it someplace where there is a large interest?" Biegun said.
Biegun has big plans for venue.
Early in 2018, the track had booked at least 24 events.
"We are looking for a place to bring people together in the outlying area and give them a venue where their family can come and feel safe and enjoy themselves," he said.
It will also be a place where individuals will be able to see top-notch racing, Biegun said.
"They will see top fuel cars, front engine drag strip, nitro funny cars, nostalgic pro stock, a ton of promod cars," he said.
Biegun is also the owner of the American Drag Racing League as well as RJS Racing Equipment and Performance 2 Way Racing Communications.
He said the former Orangeburg Dragstrip, located at 194 Dragstrip Road, attracted him because the American Drag Racing League has had to lease race tracks for its events over the years.
"One of the challenges I have had is finding good, quality race tracks to go have our races at," he said. "I said ‘Gee, this would be a great place to have your home base.’"
And so instead of leasing tracks, Biegun decided to purchase the dragstrip back in November 2017 for a little under $1 million from Buddy Boozer.
"If we are going to go out and spend hard cash to lease tracks, well, why not do it at your own track?" Biegun said. "I think it is a good, solid business move to do."
But Biegun noticed the venue had seen its better days and needed a lot of help.
"We have gone from one end of the property to the other to make it safe, usable and appealing," Biegun said. "The racing business is changing.
"It is not like it used to be 20 years ago. We are trying to create a family atmosphere here."
Biegun removed about 1,700 feet of guardrail at the 3,000-foot track.
"Guardrails are just a very dangerous thing for race cars because they act like can openers," Biegun said. "We replaced those all with concrete walls. We replaced the timing system."
The new Daktronics timing system provides race fans with a clear, digital “top of the line” scoreboard, Biegun said.
The track also has a newly refurbished race tower, sound system and about 15 acres of expanded parking areas.
New fencing and security has been added to the property.
Other areas have also received a facelift.
"We rebuilt the concessions area, cleaned it all up and redid the bathrooms," Biegun said. New lighting has also been put in place.
"We are making a huge investment here,” he said.
There are also tailgating areas and plans for picnic and playground areas as well as additional bathrooms for spectators and showers and bathrooms for racers.
Biegun said all the improvements are aimed at making the venue safe and family-friendly.
"We are trying to gain interest by not pricing people out," he said. Pricing will be based on car load and not on individuals.
There were so many people at the event that gates had to be closed when the venue was at maximum capacity.