By Marty Little
The count is now up to four, the number of Florida short tracks that will cease to operate at year's end. This is sad but true and the list could grow by a few more any day.
Jax Raceway - all the adjacent land has already been sold and owners of the speedway land have a signed contract for that as well. So, the entire complex of dirt oval, go kart track and drag strip are done when their season is over. This track opened in 1968 as Gator Speedway, a third-mile paved oval.
Hialeah - long rumored to be finished, this is finally the year. Regardless of what happens, the decaying 50 year old money pit will shut down in late November or early December and the bulldozers will take it down. The land is simply to valuable to remain a poorly attended speedway and will be developed.
Thunder Cross, Okeechobee - one of the newer ovals in the state, this nicely groomed clay quarter-mile oval on a former cattle/sod farm is closed already. Last event was final Saturday in June. Located just off Highway 70 east of town, the area will become a housing development. No word on the adjacent moto-cross track but since it's owned/operated by the same family it too is probably doomed. TC opened in June 1997.
Sunshine Speedway - This neat little quarter-mile oval and the adjacent eighth-mile drag strip, opened in 1960, have been sold to make room for nearby expressway expansion. Over time local growth has simply closed in on the facility and while the rumors have circulated for ages, they are now fact. The Hills have leased the track back from new owners and will finish out this season and then it's done.
Allan Brown's current National Speedway Directory shows 39 active facilities in Florida for 2004, so losing six (drag strips are seperate for Jax and Sunshine) is a 15.3% loss for one year.
May not sound like much, but a huge loss, especially to those who have raced or are currently racing at these tracks.
RIP to them all. If your local track is still in operation and healthy, be very thankful, because many are not.
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