After receiving word that Crisp Motorsports Park would be unable to host CRA SpeedFest next weekend due to local COVID-19 restrictions, Champion Racing Association (CRA) officials worked quickly to find a facility to host the traditional season-opening major Super Late Model race. A substitute was quickly found, and the event will be headed back to Florida for the first time since 2008 at Showtime Speedway on January 22-23.
CRA Director Glenn Luckett made an appearance on Speed51’s “The Bullring” Tuesday morning to talk about the process that went behind getting Showtime on board to host the event.
“We were all surprised. Basically, we got a call from Mr. Lyle last week on Tuesday, he got a letter from the Sheriff’s Department and the EMA management asking him to not have the event because of the rise in COVID cases in Crisp County,” said Luckett. “He immediately contacted us and we spent the day Tuesday figuring out what our options were. It came down to finding another facility to host the event in just over two weeks, it was tough.
“We sent the word out to several racetracks, we were kind of limited with where we could go with it being in the south. Robert Yoho stepped up and said he’ll take the event down at Showtime Speedway down in Florida. He’s very excited about the event and having us come down there and race.”
It wasn’t the first time CRA had a short window of time to find a venue to host SpeedFest. The event moved from Lanier National Speedway to Crisp in 2012 two weeks before the race was scheduled to take place. That event turned out to still be a big success, with two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch topping a field of 30 drivers to take the Super Late Model win. Other big names in that field included Bubba Pollard, David Ragan, Chase Elliott, Austin Theriault, Ross Kenseth, John Hunter Nemecheck, Erik Jones and Johnny Sauter.
This year’s running of SpeedFest could see a strong turnout just like the first show held at Crisp. A strong contingent of Super Late Model racers converged onto Showtime this past weekend for the first lag of the Super Late Model Triple Crown, with 24 cars taking the green flag for the 100-lap feature.
“We’re still trying to put together a good entry list. We’ve got some guys that it’s just too far to travel, but we’ve got a lot of Florida guys on board who normally wouldn’t come to SpeedFest. It’s going to have a whole new flavor to the deal.”
Just as Luckett and CRA President RJ Scott thought scheduling around COVID-19 would be done after 2020, they found themselves in a similar situation for SpeedFest. Two dates were added at Lebanon I-44 Speedway and another date was added at Anderson Speedway for the ARCA/CRA Super Series over the course of last season.
“We were very lucky. On May 30 we got to start racing thanks to Bob Sargent moving the event to Lebanon I-44. From then on, it was a puzzle, putting pieces together every week. We were telling racers we’re just doing the best we can to get races in. Luckily we had a lot of great promoters that wanted races and moved races, wanted us to have races.
“Unfortunately we’re right back in this situation and we might be here for a while. It might be the middle of summer before things are really headed in a good direction.”
While Luckett and CRA hopes to return to Cordele for future SpeedFest events, they are looking forward to making their way to the West coast of Central Florida. It comes full-circle for Showtime Speedway Promoter Robert Yoho, who competed in the inaugural SpeedFest 200 at the now-defunct USA International Speedway in 2005.
“We’ve always loved going down to Watermelon, the people down there are so welcoming it’s unbelievable. People love having us, we love having the event down there. What’s funny is I was talking to Robert and I told him he raced in one of the first SpeedFest events down in Lakeland.
“I actually went and looked back, the very first season we had it, Robert raced in the event and he actually finished 21st in the event. We talked about that the other day. He’s real excited, he was a part of it when this thing began so he’s looking forward to bringing it back down there.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo