A new pavement sprint car series will begin racing in Florida in 2016. It will use some of the same tracks that the Tampa Bay Area Racing Association used to compete at, making it virtually impossible for a TBARA comeback to occur. “We’re going to call it the Southern Sprintcar Shootout Series (SSSS), running at Showtime, Desoto and New Smyrna so far,” stated Rick Day, who is the General Manager/Race Director at Showtime Speedway. “All events will be run on Hoosier Tires. The first race is at Desoto Speedway on January 9th. It’s going to be probably ten sprint car races here (referring to Showtime Speedway), six at Desoto and New Smyrna is going to be a player in the game and possibly Bronson (referring to Bronson Speedway in North Florida).”
A recent confirmation that Desoto Speedway would be switching to Hoosier Tires for their sprint car races seemed to be the last building block needed to build the planned series. The track had used American Racer Tires previously, which were also used at Citrus County Speedway. Showtime had already been using Hoosier Tires for sprint car racing.
The group that is behind the organizing of this new sprint car series consists of Rick Day, who stated that he is the President. Day also stated that Taylor Andrews, of Dayton Andrews Dodge in St. Petersburg, is on the board and that Robert Yoho, leaseholder at Showtime Speedway, is also on the board. Earlier this month, Day revealed that there may be one other person who will serve on the board of the new series to bring the total number of board members to four. Taylor Andrews confirmed that they are trying to finalize a contract for a series title sponsor, but the contract is not yet signed.
An announcement originally planned for the first day of the PRI Trade Show had to be nixed to allow more time for the deal to convert Desoto Speedway to Hoosier Tires to be finalized. Desoto recently announced that they were going to use American Racer tires for super late models, open wheel modifieds, trucks and street stocks in 2016. Sprint cars will use Hoosier Tires there.
The type of tracks seen on the 2016 schedule range from the high-speed, high-banked half mile at New Smyrna Speedway to the bullring at Showtime Speedway, a slightly banked quarter mile. Desoto Speedway is between these two, at three eighths of a mile, it has semi-banked turns.
The full 2016 race schedule has now been revealed. Both Desoto Speedway and Showtime Speedway previously announced unsanctioned sprint car races as part of their 2016 schedules, most of which will be taken over as sanctioned races for the new series. The races already announced at Desoto Speedway, now SSSS sanctioned races, are on the following dates: 1/9, 3/5, 6/4, 8/6, 9/3, and 11/5. The series races announced at Showtime Speedway are on the following dates: 2/13, 3/19, 4/16, 4/30, 6/18, 7/16, 7/30, 9/17, 10/15, and 11/19. Two races on the current 18 race schedule are non-wing races, both at Showtime Speedway (4/30 and 7/30). Citrus County Speedway in Inverness, which has been the Florida home track for non-wing pavement racers in Florida for the past two years, currently is without a promoter after the departure of Gary Laplant. Rick Day did state that the new sprint car sanctioning body, or its officers, may have an interest in taking over the lease at Citrus County Speedway.
Rick Day spoke about the desire for the opening season to have 16 to 18 races. Day was at Showtime Speedway on the night I spoke to him in early December. The confirmed race date of 1/9 at Desoto Speedway is the season opener, originally scheduled for 1/16. There are also two races planned for New Smyrna Speedway, on 5/14 and 8/13. Sprint car racing was absent from New Smyrna Speedway this year. The track’s last sprint car race was in August 2014, a TBARA sanctioned race won by Larry Brazil Jr.
With about a week remaining until the season opening race of their initial race season, the new series will have to kick their pre-season planning into high gear through the holiday period and into the new year’s first week. They have begun to get their internet and social networking presence built and online.
A partial list of the things that they will need are included on this “To Do List”: series logo (a Cobra or Viper preparing to strike seems an obvious one, with “SSSS” as an acronym), determine Bronson Speedway race dates, points structure and points fund, sponsor deals, selection of race officials to include tech inspector, flagman, series announcer, PR or Marketing/Press Relations Director, Rules and Regulations (although it is likely to match the TBARA rules package to allow racers to race with cars last raced just 4 weeks ago).
A Florida pavement series previously announced by Davey Hamilton was stalled after Hamilton had doubts about the possibility that a new Southeast regional pavement sprint car series could be successful. He also knew that car owners wanted to continue using existing 360 engines and were not embracing his proposal to switch to using 410 engines exclusively after three years. With the new series originated and controlled by Floridians, it will eliminate the need to convince car owners to switch to a new engine format.
With its apparent demise, Floridians will be looking back at the history of the Tampa Bay Area Racing Association with pride. The list of TBARA champions includes the names Dave Steele, Troy DeCaire, Sam Rodriguez, Wayne Reutimann, Dude Teate, Robert Smith, and Taylor Andrews. TBARA champions have won seven Little 500 races, two Governor’s Cup late model races, two USAC Silver Crown series titles, and two Must See Racing Sprint Series titles. They have raced and won open wheel races in midgets, sprint cars, and Silver Crown cars on dirt and pavement from coast to coast. Their exploits will be part of the extraordinary history of Florida sprint car racing for a long time.
By Richard Golardi, Hoseheads.com Columnist
Photo Credit: Rex Hollinger – Boneman Racing.