To me, the beauty of Speedweeks is that everybody has their own favorite aspects of the annual southern winter pilgrimage.
Whether it’s the racing, the comradery, the scenery, or even the food we all have specific things that we look forward to each February. From this fact, this article is born.
I’m going to mix and match my six favorite parts of Speedweeks. Some are racing related, while others couldn’t be further detached from the motorsports world if they tried.
After you take a look at what I have to say, let me know what your favorite parts of this mega miniseries are.
#1) Volusia Speedway Park
It’s ironic on so many levels that Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida) currently resides in the top spot on my list of Speedweeks favs.
I made my first trip to Volusia Speedway Park in the summer of 1998, while on a family vacation. While celebrating my recent high school graduation in Daytona Beach, I conned my uncle into making the 40 mile drive over to the ½-mile oval to check the place out. I was incredibly excited to see it in person, because I knew it was a mainstay on the Speedweeks circuit.
However, my excitement quickly transitioned into disappointment. The sandy-clay surface blew dust early in hot laps for the weekly racing event before ultimately locking down to a single groove by the time that the warm-ups were completed. The rest of the night was a battle to the bottom of each and every race.
I remember commenting that the track might the worst surface I had ever seen.
Fast forward almost 20 years later, and it’s now one of my favorites tracks in the country.
The sandy clay has long since been replaced with a gumbo-type material that holds moisture throughout the night, and produces lightning-fast, racing action.
I also love the fact that the facility hosts 12-straight days of racing action and truly has something for every dirt track fanatic. From Super Late Models to Sprint Cars to UMP Modifieds to Big Block Modifieds, this track truly makes the most of the two-week, Speedweeks saga.
It’s definitely one of my top recommendations anytime I get a question on which tracks are a “Speedweeks must.”
#2) The Beach
During the insanity that is Speedweeks it’s sometimes easy to lose your focus on enjoying the moment. For me it’s 17-straight days in Florida with 16-straight nights of racing.
That’s right. If you don’t get a rainout, you can race 16 nights in a row from February 10-February 25.
I know that many of you are thinking, “Hey Ben, go find a real problem.” I fully understand your sentiment but like anything, two-plus weeks of the same thing can get grueling at times when it’s your job.
When you race that many nights in a row you begin to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Every day you get up and repeat exactly what you did the day prior. So for me, I try to reset as often as possible by taking a walk or a run down the beach.
Whether it be Jekyll Island in Georgia or Daytona or Tampa in Florida, I often incorporate a morning venture down the sandy confines of my local beach. I’ve found more once that it can allow you to relax and then refocus.
One myth is that since you are in Florida that it must always be warm. More times than not, this is incorrect.
It’s not uncommon to see lows in the 40’s and highs in the 50’s. As a result, you probably won’t be venturing into the ocean for a swim very often, but you can still gain a net positive with regular trips to feel the sand between your toes.
#3) Bubba Raceway Park
I’m all about uniqueness in life. No matter what aspect it might be, I love to see different approaches and creativity.
Enter Bubba Raceway Park.
Bubba Clem’s house of speed in Ocala, Florida has lived life as both an asphalt track and nowadays as a dirt-topped playground. It’s perhaps one of the most unique configurations in dirt track racing.
Turns 1-2 are wide and sweeping like you would expect from a 3/8-mile oval. However, things take a drastic turn on the backstretch, where drivers hit a dogleg in the middle of the long span. It all transitions into turns 3-4, which are more like what you would see on a tight ¼-mile bullring.
The end result is a true driver’s track. Due to the varying characteristics of the two ends of the speedway it’s about impossible to set a car up to handle well for the full 3/8-mile trip around the track. Success or failure falls squarely on the guy with the steering wheel in his hands.
Again, it’s far from your typical track configuration, and that just makes me love it that much more. Add in the fact that you never know what Bubba will have up his sleeve next, and Bubba Raceway Park is a must-see stop during Speedweeks.
#4) The Casino
If there’s one constant throughout the racing world, it’s that we like to gamble. Whether it’s racers gambling on a setup that could win the feature or it’s fans gambling on traveling to a far-away race with a less than favorable forecast, we all like to take chances.
As a result, it’s no big surprise that many of us also enjoy an occasional trip to the casinos. From table games to slot machines there’s no shortage of chances to take.
For me it’s a way to unwind. I love good times and good camaraderie. Throw in the chance to make some money, and I’ll be first in line. So it’s not uncommon to catch me in the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa at some point during Speedweeks.
The beauty of many of these Speedweeks events is that the racing typically gets done early. East Bay Raceway Park is a prime example. It’s not uncommon to see the final checkered flag drop at 8:45. This clearly leaves a lot of time left in the night, so what better to do than to go and play some blackjack.
I’m definitely not alone in my pursuit of fun. Typically, the Hard Rock Casino is packed with racers just about any night. It offers a great time to detach from the business end of things at the track.
The nights are always filled with lots of laughs and good times. I’d like to say that typically it’s also filled with lots of money won, but I just don’t want to lie to you good people.
#5) Golden Isles Speedway
I have nothing but respect for anybody in this sport that goes out of their way to make fan and racer improvements. I personally don’t think there’s another track on the Speedweeks docket that has done more to achieve these goals over the past few years than Waynesboro, Georgia’s Golden Isles Speedway.
The track has seen everything from track improvements to grandstand expansions to even the addition of a massive onsite campground.
There are so many unknowns in this world, but for me it has become a certainty over the past few years that when I roll into Golden Isles Speedway I’m going to see an improvement over the last time I was in attendance.
A few years ago the track was shortened and reconfigured to allow for more exciting racing as well as multi-grooved action. Seating for over 2,500 fans was purchased from NASCAR’s Daytona International Speedway and installed last year. In addition, there’s an onsite campground with hookups that can accompany 150 campers.
This year they’ve taken the bar to a whole new level with their annual Super Bowl of Racing. The February 10-11 weekend, will once again feature the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. Amazingly fans will be able to check out the action for just $10 on Friday night and $15 on Saturday night. Our sport hasn’t seen these prices for events like this in decades.
All of these factors thrown together, reminds us that we have to support tracks like Golden Isles Speedway. They are trying to give back to the sport, so I think it’s only fair that we do all that we can to give back to them.
#6) The Food
Last but not least, I absolutely love the food at Speedweeks. From the mega-concession stand at Redd Griffin’s Screven Motor Speedway in Sylvania, Georgia to the strawberry shortcake at East Bay Raceway Park to the food midway at Volusia Speedway Park, there’s no shortage of great eats and drinks.
Imagine going to the county fair for 16-straight nights, and that’s what you get food-wise at Speedweeks each year. Some people fear gaining weight during the holidays, however I battle the bulge during my annual trip south in February.
My biggest weaknesses have to be the pork-tender loin sandwich at Screven Motor Speedway, the pizza at East Bay Raceway Park, and the ice cream at Volusia Speedway Park. While these are my annual frontrunners, I’ve been known to work several other items into the mix including some steak-on-a-stick, tacos, Polish sausages, egg rolls, etc.
Sadly, my list of taste bud temptations run on almost endlessly.
One thing is for sure though. If you go to any Speedweeks track and leave hungry, you can only blame yourself.
I hope you enjoyed my list of favorite things about Speedweeks. Once again, this list is different for just about everybody. In fact, I encourage you to respond to this article with what you love the most.
Who knows, your favorite thing might become somebody else’s top pick as well.
Travel safe everyone, and I hope we cross paths on that dirty Speedweeks trail.