Out of the turbulence of the postponement, relocation and cancellation of CRA SpeedFest 2021, another exciting event has been born. While it has not come under circumstances anyone could have foreseen, this weekend’s Florida Fest 2021 at Showtime Speedway promises to be an exciting event.
Originally, CRA SpeedFest 2021 was scheduled to take place at Crisp Motorsports Park. However, the event was relocated to Showtime Speedway last week due to directives from local health officials regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Champion Racing Association (CRA) and Showtime Speedway officials announced on Monday that the event would be canceled, citing a low car count for the Pro Late Model division as a major contributing factor.
In its place will be the first-ever Florida Fest. The event will pay $15,000 to win for a 150-lap Super Late Model feature, and will also boast Winged Sprint Cars in a rare combination of the fendered and open-wheel world.
“We turned it into a one-day show, with practice for everybody on Friday,” said Showtime Speedway owner Robert Yoho. “We’ll charge $15 for everyone who was coming to SpeedFest, without the big two or three-day ticket.
“They get in there Friday for $15, get camped up, ready to go, come to the Saturday show. It’ll have more racing. We won’t have the Pro Late Models, but we’ll have our Sprint Cars with the world-famous Troy DeCaire.”
Yoho harbors no ill will towards CRA for the decision, fully understanding their viewpoint on the decision.
“There’s been a lot of negativity about CRA cancelling. It was a non-points race, and they didn’t want to endorse something, with the feedback they were getting, that might make the series look bad or make SpeedFest 2021 a failure. After talking with me, I said, ‘That’s fine.’”
Still, the cancellation created a new issue for Yoho and his staff. With many teams already planning a trip to Pinellas Park, Florida for the event, he wanted to ensure there was still a race taking place.
“The problem I had after that was, I had so many people coming. My nickname is ‘Showtime,’ people are coming, they have plane reservations. At this point and time, it was beyond no return. I started making phone calls and decided I’d go out on a limb and make this thing happen.”
In fact, Rich Bickle had already made the trip south and was testing at Showtime when the cancellation was announced. Bickle’s reaction only reinforced for Yoho that the show must go on.
“Rich Bickle was in the pits when they cancelled the race. He was fit to be tied. I told him to hold on. Just to see his reaction, I started to put my mind together.”
The event has already generated plenty of interest on social media, which Yoho admits comes in part to his social media persona. However, those social media interactions have also led to some hard work at the track ahead of Florida Fest 2021.
“I checked on Facebook a while ago. We had 255,000 reactions today on Facebook. A lot of it has to do with my antics, how I do my live videos. If you want to say something about my track, I’ll come at you. People made comments and said my pits were bumpy, so I repaved them. Sometimes, they’re right, and it hurts to have someone tell you something, but you’ve got to react and fix it or blow it off. We try to keep everything on the up-and-up.”
Yoho has also increased the purse from the planned payout for the Super Late Model portion, which will now pay $15,000 to win. He hopes this will draw some competitors who were hesitant to make the trip to Showtime for CRA SpeedFest.
“I’ve got Bubba Pollard sitting at home on his couch. I’ve got people calling and asking if he’s coming. We never put a list of names out because I don’t want to mislead people. We don’t like to do it, but I know Pollard is saving his stuff for Speedweeks.
“The only way I know to do it is to throw out more money. We threw $5,000 to first, $1,000 to second and third. $4,000 for second, that’s more than they pay to win some of these races. To get the better car counts, throw a little more money out there. It’s like fishing. You’ve just got to throw it out there and see what bites.”
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans