The pending 4-17 finish is a big loss for Florida Racing – Update Flor

USA International Speedway. Orlando Speedworld. Hialeah Speedway. Golden Gate Speedway. St. Augustine Speedway. Palm Beach Fairgrounds Speedway. And soon, 4-17 Southern Speedway. A few decades ago, this list of tracks would have been a must-have short track race circuit. Now they live only in “Memories” groups on social networks.


I try not to worry too much about track closures. While many tracks have been closed in recent years, a fair number have also been built. Some of the most historic tracks that seemed destined for the chopping block — the Nashville Fairgrounds and North Wilkesboro most come to mind — appear to have a new future. And while I know it’s not a popular opinion, I believe it’s better to have a handful of well-maintained and well-publicized facilities spread across the states rather than a bunch of tracks that are—to put it mildly—not in good shape. and they only add to the negative stereotypes while cannibalizing the crowds.

That means it is from a national perspective. It’s hard to ignore some regions are hurting more than others, and no region has been hurt more than Florida’s asphalt racing scene. If the 4-17 closure and demolition continues, there will be five regularly active asphalt short tracks in Florida – Five Flags (Pensacola), Auburndale, Citrus County (Inverness), New Smyrna (which had to close early this year due to hurricane damage) and Showtime ( Pinellas Park). Freedom Factory – most commonly known as DeSoto – and Bronson seem to be mostly idle except for special events.

And it’s going to be hard to reverse that trend—there’s just no getting around the fact that Florida today is different than Florida 40 years ago. Population growth is staggering and the price of land is rising with it. It’s hard to think of any place in the state that would be particularly fertile (and cheap) ground for a new asphalt facility right now.

As we face an uncertain future, I strongly encourage all short track fans in Florida to send the 417 miles a fond farewell and make it to the final race. In honor of its history — this track that began in 1990 as Charlotte County Speedway — let’s take a look back at five of the greatest moments the track has experienced.

February 11, 1991 – The first major track event was a rare one – the winged All Star Sprints on asphalt. While the ASCoC group has dipped its toe deeper into the tarmac than the WoO ever has, the total number of “official” races held by major sprint sanctioning bodies can still be counted on a few hands. Kenny Jacobs won this event if we can find a single asphalt win for the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

February 10, 1992 – WoO actually partnered with ASCoC to return the following year, hosting two shows, both won by Dave Blaney. Names like Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell and Andy Hillenburg first appeared in Charlotte County. The event was particularly notable for the immediate aftermath of the SunCoast Dome debacle, which more or less left a bad taste in the mouths of all the racers at the track that weekend who were still waiting to be paid from previous events.

March 22, 2003 – Wayne Anderson has won 15 races in the state of Florida, but according to our records, this is the only time he has conquered Punta Gorda (at least in the tour series). Anderson dominated the Florida Pro Series season opener, starting 5th, taking the lead on lap 4 and never looking back to win 100 laps.

February 25, 2017 – The final career victory for Florida’s greatest sprint car racer, Dave Steele. Steele would tragically die at the start of a sprint race at DeSoto exactly one month later, but he would be undisputed on his way to victory that day. Once the old Tampa Bay Auto Racing Association folds, a new series – The Southern Sprintcar Shootout Series – will begin again in 2016. This marked Steele’s 14th win in 15 starts in the group.

November 27, 2021 – The sixth annual Bill Bigley Memorial was the wildest race yet. Steve Dorer and Nick Neri crashed on the way to the white flag and then proceeded to make things worse off the track. While the fireworks were going on, Michael Atwell pushed past Rich Bickle for the win. The biggest win of Atwell’s career, it was also a win for Bickle. While his career ended a week later in the Snowball Derby, Bickle’s Snowball performance was more celebratory than competitive, while Bigley’s hard finish served as the last time he really challenged for victory.


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