All the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series needed was 10 years. A brief time period for a series to grow, for sure, but it was time well spent. What began as a simple observation has matured into one of the most successful and popular dirt series in the country-and the Hav-A-Tampa engine is just getting warm.
Filling a Void Back in 1989, Jimmy Mosteller, senior vice president of the Hav-A-Tampa/Phillies Cigar Company and part-time race announcer, noticed a lack of continuity in dirt Late Model racing around his home in Atlanta. Aiming to elevate this problem, Mosteller and family friend Mike Swims fostered an idea to promote several races a year that would bring direction and stability to dirt-track racing.
"While Mosteller began putting these races together," explains Roby Helm, public relations director for United Dirt Track Racing Association (UDTRA), "he was close with the Swims family that owned and operated two racetracks in Georgia."
A marketing program was born to promote 12 races at several tracks throughout the Southeast that paid more purse money than regular weekly racing events. The plan also included a season-ending "All Star" event at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Georgia under the direction of well-known promoter Mickey Swims. The event helped give the fledgling series credibility with other promoters, drivers, and fans.
The marketing program worked. Hav-A-Tampa sold more cigars, and more promoters became eager to stage a Hav-A-Tampa race. More races meant more competition for race dates, which in turn led to higher purses. Higher purses meant more "headlining" drivers began appearing on the starting grid. And better drivers meant better racing, which race fans noticed by attending the races in ever-growing numbers.
Suddenly the original advertising campaign had turned into a full-fledged series in desperate need of a sanctioning body with a standard set of rules, consistent officiating, and a championship point fund. Mosteller then suggested the UDTRA name, and Mike Swims brought the idea to fruition by serving as the body's president. The UDTRA became a reality in 1995 by hiring officials, creating a points championship, and standardizing a nationally recognized set of car body rules.
"This," boasts Helm, "was when the series really started to get going."
The Cars UDTRA cars are dirt Late Models with a steel tubular chassis and sheet-aluminum bodies with aluminum bracing for weight savings and ease of maintenance. The bodies are simpler for competitors to manufacture and fabricate, and they are relatively easy to adjust by hand after light on-track fender rubbing.
There are roughly seven or eight different chassis manufacturers and six prevalent engine builders, and each competes for its respective Hav-A-Tampa manufacturer's championship.
"The engines are basically 750hp V-8s," reveals Helm. "Drivers can run just about any size engine they want, but there is a weight penalty of 100 pounds added to any car using an engine more than 358 ci. The penalty is progressive as the engine displacement increases. The base weight of the cars is about 2,300 pounds."
Every car must have stock-appearing noses embossed with the manufacturer logo and headlight decals.
"The nosepiece signifies what type of car the driver is running," Helm says, "whether the car is a Monte Carlo, Mustang, Grand Prix, Camaro, Firebird, Taurus, Thunderbird, or a Dodge Avenger. The drivers must, however, run the engine that corresponds with the nosepiece they are using."
Hav-A-Tampa cars run almost exclusively on Hoosier tires, but UDTRA does have an "open-tire rule" that allows competitors to use just about any tire they see fit.