When Steve Zacharias reopened Florence and announced that the season finale would be run in honor of the late Charlie Powell, his son Charles Powell, III, decided it was a race he had to enter.
The 56-year-old from Summerville, South Carolina is a two-time NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series regional champion and a longtime competitor in Late Model Stock Car and Limited Late Model racing in South Carolina. Saturday’s event will be only his second start in 2020 and his first since his father, longtime Florence Motor Speedway owner, and promoter Charlie Powell, passed away due to COVID-19 in August.
Saturday’s South Carolina 400, which serves as something of a replacement for the Myrtle Beach 400, is being run under the Charlie Powell Memorial banner at the track – something the family considers to be an honor.
“It means the world to me and my family,” Charles Powell, III told Short Track Scene. “I was just excited about people recognizing him and giving him the respect he deserves for how long he promoted racetracks. He was a good racecar driver and a great promoter. He did everything he could to keep it alive and now Steve Zacharias is carrying it on from here and making it better.”
Under Zacharias, Florence Motor Speedway has seen a boom in popularity – a result of how much respect Zacharias earned during his eight-year tenure as general manager of the now-defunct Myrtle Beach Speedway. The track has already hosted one CARS Tour event and has replaced Carteret County Speedway on the 2021 series schedule and now will see some of Late Model Stock Car racing’s biggest names converge once again on Saturday.
“My dad would be so excited for these guys to be here,” Powell said. “I’m excited to run with them but I’ve got to pick up the pace a little bit. I think we’ll be better.”
Powell last raced full-time in 2001 but has since raced off-and-on throughout the years, making starts at Florence Motor Speedway and in the Myrtle Beach 400. This weekend’s race, however, is one that he and his brother, Robert, just could not miss.
“When they said it was going to be here, there was no doubt I would try to run this race,” Powell explained. “We’ve had 17 or 18 people who have helped sponsor this car. I call it the ‘community car.’ We’ve had so many family and friends that have helped me be able to raise money to rent this car from Jason York, and I have some people helping me out, including Dave Dunlap, Mike Hester, and John Whittington.”
The past few months have been difficult for Powell, as the loss of any relative is for anyone.
“It’s been awful,” Powell stated. “It’s still awful. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been involved with. My stepmother passed away three weeks after he did. 2020 sucks. It’s just been hard. Every day, not a day goes by that I don’t think about it. This race has kind of taken my mind off that and been so down all the time. It’s going to be emotional come Saturday. I can’t call him and ask him how I need to handle this.”
Despite not racing frequently anymore, Powell still hopes to get in his car and win on Sunday in what would be one of the biggest wins of his storied Late Model Stock Car career.
“I’m a racer,” Powell remarked. “I’ve been racing for 25 years, but it’s been a while since I’ve been in a Late Model Stock Car. I always want to win. I’ve got a little way to go but we had practice on Thursday and I was mid-pack. I just want to honor my dad in a way he’d want me to do it. He’d be proud of how we’re handling it this weekend.”
Powell last raced earlier this year in a Limited Late Model at Florence Motor Speedway. Saturday will be the first time he has raced without his father at the track and Powell knows it will be an emotional day.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” Powell said. “I know it’s going to be emotional for me and Robert. We’ll have other family members here who haven’t been to a race in 20-25 years. Some of my family, some of his family. I want to win. I was upset because I didn’t run the way I wanted to run in practice, but I just need to honor him the right way and have fun doing it.”
Qualifying for Saturday’s South Carolina 400 will commence at 2:15 pm and the green flag will fly at 4 pm. Along with the Charlie Powell Memorial 225 lap Late Model Stock Car feature, the South Carolina 400 will also feature the SMART Modified Tour, the Carolina Pro Late Model Series, and the Allison Legacy Series. Speed51 will have a live broadcast available to the race for Speed51 TV subscribers.