MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Research from the Washington Economics Group shows the Southern 500 NASCAR race in Darlington brings $54 million to South Carolina. Based on simple observation, some of that money comes to the Grand Strand because visitors realize the beach is just a short drive away.
Bill Adair is one of those visitors. He and three friends came from Houston, TX, to visit Darlington for the first time.
"[I'm a] huge NASCAR fan," Adair admitted. "If I'm not at the race I'm at home watching it on TV"
Adair and his friends are traveling with a tour company that has realized it is good business to combine the race with the beach.
"We're all race fans. So that's the focus coming down here," explained tour organizer Stephanie Strasberger. "But the fact that you get to combine that with a place like Myrtle Beach where there's anything possible to do, it's the ultimate vacation."
The race fans sleep along Ocean Boulevard overnight, enjoy the Grand Strand during the day and head to Darlington for the races.
"We'll be back up in the morning, get to walk on the beach and all that stuff, and then tomorrow afternoon we'll be back to the track," Adair said.
Adair and his friends were not the only NASCAR fans spending time in the Grand Strand Friday. "Rock" Ulrich also came for the race, but he's staying in Myrtle Beach too.
"My wife decided she's going to stay here today," Ulrich said with a smile. "She's not going out to the race because this is so nice she decided to stay here."
Ulrich said his wife wanted to go shopping, and it is visits like that that have been noticed by the Chamber of Commerce and local businesses. Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean said the relation between Darlington races and the Grand Strand has been obvious for years. When Darlington lost its Labor Day weekend race Dean said the Chamber noticed a drop in visitors to the beach.
"There are thousands of race fans who stay all throughout the Grand Strand," Dean said.
So the Chamber makes sure to advertise at the race to attract even more visitors to the area. Race fans will hear announcements and see videos at the track during the race. The chamber also has an information booth at the track.
"Darlington brings in a very diverse audience of race fans. It also gives us a unique marketing tool because many of those visitors haven't been to the Grand Strand," Dean explained. "So we'll actively market to them at the race, and that gives us an opportunity to bring them here in the future."
Coming back in the future is something Adair is now seriously considering. While the excitement of the race is Adair's main focus this time, he said this trip to the track may bring him back to the Grand Strand.
"I've always wanted to be in Myrtle Beach and see it. We're actually kind of scoping it out as a potential vacation destination for later on."