MYRTLE BEACH — The heat index read 96 degrees before racing started Tuesday night at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
However, thats the temperature race fans felt not the drivers. Drivers face much hotter temperatures being cramped up in the car with heat radiating off the track.
And Tuesday night the stakes and the heat were turned up a notch in the 100-lap Late Model race, which was one of five races this year in which drivers could clinch a spot in the season-ending Myrtle Beach 250 with a victory.
Sam Yarbrough overcame the heat to win Tuesday and earned entry into the big event.
Pawleys Islands Samie Scarpelli, meanwhile, started preparing himself for the racing conditions on Sunday.
I started hydrating myself, Scarpelli said. I drank lots of water and a couple Gatorades a day. I wear an open-face helmet because its a lot cooler for me, but a lot of people dont like it.
Defending track champion and current points leader Justin Milliken followed a similar regimen but, unlike Scarpelli, he enjoys the heat.
The week before the race I was getting myself hydrated, said Milliken, who finished fifth Tuesday. You cant hardly get hydrated the day of the race. My team and I started running in this heat, so hopefully that helps but the hotter the better.
Fellow Late Model racer Matt Cox had a different plan for staying cool during the race.
We will have some blowers inside the car, said Cox, who is from Little River. We will also have a water jug in the car during the race. It wont be too bad.
Andy Anders finished second, Jamey Lee was third and Stuart Ricks took fourth Tuesday.
Milliken won the first 100-lap race last month. The remaining races are on Aug. 2, Sept. 1 and Oct. 6.
Those five, plus the top two qualifiers on Nov. 17, will be entered in a 35-lap Dash for Cash, later that day where the winner gets $2,500 and earns the pole position in the main event.
The finishing order in the Dash for Cash will determine the starting lineup for the Myrtle Beach 250, which pays $10,000 to win.
The drivers also had to adapt their racing style and strategy to the heat, which they likely will encounter again and again this year. The high temperatures cause the racing surface to be so hot that the tires grip harder and start shredding away.
You got to save your tires, Scarpelli said before Tuesdays race. The track is really abrasive on the tires. If you can be easy in the turns and off, you can save some tire for the end.
Milliken added: You definitely cant run hard at the beginning. You kind of run around and with about 50 to go, you go then. You make it two races in one.
In other action Tuesday, Kevin Jackson picked up his second win of the year in the Mini-Stock race. Adam Fulford, Jason Tutterow, Michael McKinnon and Willie Fulford finished out the top five.
In the Chargers division, Mark Hale came across the line first for the fourth time this year. Kevin Barnhill edged Ed Ray for second, and Lucas Williams and Joe Armakovitch finished out the top five.