Southbound traffic on Interstates 95 and 75 easily outnumbers that headed north. With East Bay Raceway Park on the west side of Florida and a wealth of racing action on the East Coast, the highways are teeming with race rigs and faithful fans looking for a respite from winter.
Historically, the season has kicked itself into high gear for a number of short-track teams with a visit to the Sunshine State. Track promoters are accommodating history once again this year with a full slate of activity in many areas. Some tracks are going to wait it out, knowing the competition is keen with the established programs at New Smyrna, East Bay, and Volusia. Once racing gets rolling in Florida, it goes until the calendar says stop.
For 2004, the excitement is definitely building. The management team of East Bay Raceway Park is entering its second season at the helm of the track. They took over on September 11, 2002, and the 2003 Winternationals was a learning experience that was nearly all positive. East Bay Vice President Todd Hutto had some experience, having been involved with New Smyrna Speedway's World Series of Asphalt Racing. He saw one area from 2003 that needed a boost.
Both the Xtreme and Renegade DirtCar series will open their racing by sharing six nights a
"We want to increase the participation of the locals," Hutto says. "This year, we're going to keep the Modifieds around to go with the 360 Sprints. They're getting some extra time here. Last year, they were here for three nights, and there were over 100. We hope we'll be able to attract more by giving them more dates. They'll have seven days of competition."
The track will feature the 410 Sprints, but this year, the action will be unsanctioned.Hurtling toward its fourth decade of action, the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing will again provide consecutive nights of action, drawing competitors from throughout the United States and Canada. The competition at New Smyrna has enticed up-and-coming talent and veterans alike. Many drivers in the upper echelon of racing made appearances at New Smyrna during their own days of short-track racing. Last year's program attracted drivers who will enter the '04 racing season as champions in their own backyards. It is a diversity of stock car racing with drivers looking to get their programs off on the right start.
Side-by-side action through the corners is common during the World Series of Asphalt Stock
On the dirt, the legendary action of Raceweeks at Volusia Speedway Park has been thrilling snowbirds and locals since the early '70s. The track has offered a variety of racing and continues to be the only stop for the New York-based DIRT Motorsports program south of Charlotte. With 14 nights of racing in a 15-day period, Volusia's dedication to the tradition of short-track excitement is quite clear.
This year, the Orlando Speedworld is getting in on the February action with an exciting alternative. The track, which normally runs Friday night programs, has been experimenting with occasional Saturday nights featuring divisions that may have been overshadowed at other tracks. This program has been expanded for the '04 season and will start with the 2004 Winternationals. Orlando Speedworld General Manager Dick Westfall announced five straight nights of racing with at least three divisions running each night. Legends Cars, Classic Auto Racing Series, and Bandoleros will go green each night. Baby Grand cars were scheduled to hit the track at least three nights. Negotiations for more action were underway at press time.
Once you get to Florida, you could find more racing action as promoters work hard to give the racer and his following the best bang for their dollar. Some tracks were contemplating additional action, but that information wasn't available at the time of this writing.
Volusia Speedway Park will serve as the only stop for the New York-based DIRT Modifieds.
Matt Miller (7) races Scott James (83) at East Bay in 2003.
February is not a Florida vacation for everyone. Some have to work day and night to keep r