For a long time, the official New Year for me came the last weekend every February. That was when Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown, Pennsylvania, annually held its season-opening race for 410 Sprint cars. It could be brutal. Bright sunlight, whipping winds, temperatures in the upper 30s and a parking lot, which is to say a farm field, that was still blanketed with about six inches of the previous week’s snowfall. At least once, I had to get towed out of the parking lot. So imagine how cool it is, no pun intended, to be able to watch an absolute battery of short-tracking in February when it’s solidly in the 70s. This is Speedweeks, the winter motorsports festival that can trace its roots to when Big Bill France first promoted the Daytona beach races during the 1930s. It’s centered on Daytona International Speedway, as everyone knows, but lots of people probably don’t realize that a galaxy of short-track action takes place across Florida’s midriff every night, straight through the Daytona 500. This is not a complete list of what’s going on – for that, you’re best bet is to hook up with Area Auto Racing News out of Trenton, New Jersey, which carries an exhaustive Speedweeks schedule in its pages – but I’ll give you some highlights.
First up is Volusia Speedway Park on State Route 40 in Barberville, due west of Ormond Beach, where the 49th DIRTcar Nationals is now underway. The DIRT Motorsports photo by my buddy Paul Arch shows last night’s action at Volusia, where 2018 Knoxville Nationals champion Brad Sweet dusted the best from Tony Stewart’s All-Star Circuit of Champions for 410 Sprints. Sweet will be back tomorrow night when the World of Outlaws traveling national Sprint tour checks into Volusia for a three-night stand. Next up are DIRTcar Late Models Monday and Tuesday. The Tuesday show will be paired with my must-see division, the DIRT big-block Modifieds that war weekly on Northeast dirt tracks from Ohio to Quebec. The Modifieds will be paired with the World of Outlaws Late Model national series from next Tuesday through Saturday, February 15th.
Asphalt racing is also prime in Florida during Speedweeks, and not just at Daytona. New Smyrna Speedway is about 10 miles southwest of Daytona Beach at State Route 44 and Tomoka Farms Road. It’s scary fast, a high-banked paved half mile, and hosts its World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing beginning tomorrow night and running right through Saturday, February 15th. The schedule varies every night but revolves around Tour-type open-wheel Modifieds, Super Late Models and Pro Late Models. The ARCA East Series is paired with the Tour Modifieds this coming Saturday, and the Tour Modifieds honor their greatest-ever star with the Richie Evans 100 on Valentine’s Day, Friday, February 14th.
Bubba Raceway Park is a 3/8th-mile dirt oval located on N.W. Gainesville Road in Ocala, about 70 miles west of Daytona Beach. It’s named for the track’s owner, the radio personality known as Bubba the Love Sponge, whose then-wife infamously made a certain videotape with Hulk Hogan. The track’s Winter Dirt Games are headlined by the USAC National Midget series tomorrow night and Saturday, and the USAC National Sprint car tour from Wednesday, February 12th through Saturday, February 15th.
The Daytona 500 is February 16th, but I’m thinking seriously about heading over to the Tampa area on Thursday, February 20th for the Dave Steele World Non-Wing Championship for asphalt Sprint cars – a niche breed that has a stronghold in Florida – at Showtime Speedway on 126th Avenue in Clearwater. Dave Steele was a Hall of Fame specialist in blacktop open-wheel racing who owned two USAC Silver Crown championships when he was fatally injured in 2017 at Bradenton, Florida. The track is a 1/4-mile paved oval and the program will pit Sprint cars in a 125-lapper, plus TQ Midgets.
The starter’s got the green in his hand. Let’s go racing!