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January 11, 2000


November 22, 1999

Some of the words used in Webster’s to describe character are “an individual’s pattern of behavior or personality; moral constitution;moral strength, fortitude.”

Forty years ago Bonnie Hill's father, Leo Musgrave, built the Sunshine Speedway near St. Petersburg, Florida and the racing began in 1960. Bonnie and Frank Hill have been overseeing the since the 1980s. In nearly forty years of intense competition the fans have seen some fascinating times. One letter we received recently from a reader went like this:

"In what I refer to the 'good old days' of Sunshine...back when the cars or the drivers all had nick names or sayings that they and there cars where known for, as in Kip Pierce in the Tooterville Trolly, Dan Daughtery's Figure 8 car was No Guts No Glory, and his late model, was the Looker, Don Lyons in the early model class (1965-66) the Wichita Lineman, Rastus Kimball had Ole Yeller, Lester Slone's early model was the Red Ball Jet, and his figure 8 the Orange Blossom Special , and the saying 'giddy up go' prior to his name on the roof of the car, there are others I am sure if I thought about it they would come to me, yep Howard Turner the #90 figure 8 was Yogi Bear with a bear on the roof, and #33 was Fat Man Elmer Sieffert."

In forty years you can build some real character.

This past year a new wave swept the racing community. Some call it Internet Fever but however you refer to it, the World Wide Web has brought a whole new dimension for fans, drivers, media, and the managements of tracks statewide. Factual information and rumors alike travel at the speed of light. managements and media are in far better communication with the racing public.

In 1999 the Sunshine Speedway brought some of the 40 years of character building to the Internet via the KARNAC.com message boards. I have letters from six states away telling me they can't wait to meet Kim Sermins and Tracy Rumsey on their next trip to Florida. It became for a group of people who share the common bond of racing. And to share their likes and dislikes in front of the world. In a tasteful or tasteless manner depending on your point of view. They let us know who they thought was cheating, and who was winning on skill. Sometimes they even let us know who was sleeping with who, or who toked the mean green or took a slug before climbing into the race car.

Not that Sunshine folks had a monopoly on any of what a writer for the St. Petersburg Times called "Trash talking message boards", they just did it with more flair and perhaps a little less discretion. One speedway manager warned her drivers at a drivers meetings of the evils of anonymous posting to the KARNAC message board. I sat in another owners pickup as he he gave me his take on the boards, while another insists it is bad for racing for the racing public to act like NFL fans or WWF fans. It probably drives some of them nuts not knowing who just called them an incompetent buffoon. Course nobody called them that. I can't print some of the things people have called them.

Three years ago there was no outlet for fans in part of the state to know what fans in another were thinking, or wanting to talk about. That's all changed now and it will never be the same again.

And neither will the racing community of Sunshine Speedway.

The Sunshine racing community had never lost a driver to a racing incident.

As the Sunshine Speedway racing season approached what was to be it's last night in 1999 that was all about to change. One very popular driver would run his last race. Another, running his first race, would be left with a nearly impossibly unreconcilable guilt. A young six year old would be left fatherless, with questions that not even the most life hardened adult could answer. Bonnie Hill, who has operated the track with her husband Frank Hill since the passing of her father many years ago, would be left wondering if she could ever again oversee the racing at Sunshine's 'Action' Speedway, with the same enthusiasm. The fans, drivers, and crews, and track workers, and indeed the entire racing community would be left in shock, and in some quarters a sense of wonderment.

Figure Eight racing is arguably short track's most exciting form of stock car racing. It is also conceivably the most dangerous. Figure Eight racing keeps the spectators on their feet, the hair standing on the back of the neck, and will literally take your breath away as cars pass in the center of what is called the X, as very high speeds, milliseconds away from devastating collisions. This Saturday the worst of nightmares became a reality.

James Martin was running his first Figure Eight race, having raced in the weekly enduros at Sunshine.

‘Wild’ Bill Revard had raced at Sunshine Speedway and entertained the loyal fans for nearly a dozen years. He was extremely popular, among not only the spectators but was loved and respected by his competitors as well.
His racing career started back in 1985 when he began in the Enduro class
which eventually became known as Pure Stock. He raced both ovals and
figure 8’s in the class. In 1992 he conquered the class to win the Pure Stock
Figure 8 points championship. That year he also captured the win in the
October Super Series. The following year he won top honors as the Pro
Figure 8 Rookie of the Year at DeSoto Speedway. He also won two Figure
8 Winternational honors.

Prior to the race on November 13, 1999 Martin had drawn the third starting spot, but considered starting at the end of the field. Revard advised the rookie figure 8 racer to go ahead, start third like he had earned, and to "have fun". In the eighth lap of the race ‘Wild’ Bill Revard's yellow #10 Hungry Howies Maverick approached the X in the center of the track. Coming from the other direction was James Martin.

As the two drivers approached the X, as has happened thousands upon thousands of times in forty years, the fans were on their feet, tensing for the instant where the cars pass inches from each other at speeds of 70 miles and hour. A figure eight race is breathtaking, literally.

This time it would a breathtaking moment that will never be forgotten as long as people race cars in Florida. as all eyes focused on the X James Martin's machine and the yellow Maverick came together with the #10 careening full speed into the front straight wall near the flagstand.

As the emergency crews responded and the helicopter came to transport the obviously injured Revard, it began to dawn on the fans this was a serious accident. Announcer Bill Green had the unenviable task of letting people know the racing was over for the night as the track officials knew the worst had happened: Sunshine had lost it's first racer to an accident.

The first post on the Florida Stock car Racing message board appeared at 11 PM and by 11 PM the next night there were over 150 posts expressing sadness, and the sense of loss, and admiration for Bill Revard. Bill had for nearly a dozen years had laid it all on the line for the fans of Sunshine. And in the end he had given all that he possibly could to them.

And they repaid him with all the love and admiration they could muster.

Out of respect for a fallen hero the rest of the Florida racing community went silent with the usual official and driver bashing that normally peppers racing message boards.

The Sunshine family, that at times in 1999 seemed like it was on the verge of civil war, came together in one unified voice to memorialize Bill Revard, in a manner that only a real family can do.

That takes a lot of character.

Bonnie Hill very quickly made the announcement that Sunshine Speedway would not run their final night of racing, and would not resume until the year 2000. Even though the speedway could have packed the house and filled the coffers, and with some in the racing community in disagreement with the decision, Bonnie and Frank Hill stood by that decision.

That takes a lot of character.

On Thursday November 18th nearly a thousand members of the Sunshine racing family gathered at a church in Pinellas Park to honor Bill Revard. A turnout that would be befitting of the most well known and respected of public figures. But it was for a man who was known for his ability to drive a car at breakneck speeds and thrill the weekly audiences. And for being a friend to many. But probably most of all because he was ‘family’.

Bill Green helped lead the Sunshine racing family through the most desperate of times. At the memorial service Bill Green spoke for the Revard family members and to racing family members while at the same time dealing with his own most intense inner pain. Very few of us ever have to deal with the gut check that Bill Green did. He did it with love.

That too takes a lot of character.

They didn't clam up and try to hide their loss, and just as Bill Revard left it all on the track every Saturday night for a decade, the Sunshine family left it all on front street, for the world to see.

And that my friends takes a kind of character from people that we can all be proud to call as our friends, "the Sunshine racing family".

John Matthews covers racing around the state for Florida Stock Car racing had this say:

"The outpouring from the fans has been incredible. The much maligned
message board changed from a war zone to a memorial overnight. One fan
established a web site as a tribute to "Wild Bill." Racers and fans
alike have come together to support the Revard family. This speaks
volumes about how deep the racing communities' roots run.
As for the man "Wild Bill," I never met him. I can't speak about how he
lived, raced, or acted. But one thing is clear. Sunshine Speedway
didn't just lose a good racer Saturday, November 13. The world lost one
of the good guys."

Out of the worst that life can deal out came a shinning example of the spirit that resides in all of us. The spirit of love, hope, reconciliation, and the spirit of caring and giving.

This past weekend at tracks all around the state, Bill Revard was remembered and race fans and participants came to the fore. Over $20,000 has been raised in eight short days for the Trust Fund set up to ensure Bill's son is taken care of.

I doubt there is a member of the Sunshine community who hasn't grown from the events of the last eight days. I doubt there are few in the Florida racing community at large who haven't been touched in some way by these events.

I have been involved in many many groups and 'communities' in my lifetime, but I can truly say, I have never witnessed anything like the sense of community and the immense character that I have seen recently.

The following post from an anonymous fan sums up the special relationship that exist between the race fans and the race drivers:

To begin with, please pardon this intrusion. My wife and I have attended Sunshine Speedway for almost 10 years. Yes, we are only fans. Yet, in that time, we have seen cars and drivers come and go. Some, with anger in their hearts for the track that fights back. We have watched many heart-stopping moments and through every one, we were given the opportunity to let out a sigh of relief when the driver was found to be OK.

This time, it was different. In all of my years of watching, I never expected to one day have to explain the loss of a hero to my 8 year-old daughter. To be truthful, I don't think I did very well. That's where this message board has helped me. The feelings that have poured out here have helped many more than just yourselves.

Thank You.

The first thought that came to our minds after this tragedy struck was that we would never come back because we did not want to see something like this again. But, we were compelled to at least see what the Sunshine Family had to say on this message board. After quite a bit of reading, it became obvious to us that we would miss everyone that we came to see every Saturday Night.

Who I am is not important. Who you are is. What you do is even more so. Please remember the feelings you have for Wild Bill and each other at this moment and apply them to when you all compete in the coming year. You must remember, it's not the rules, not the win, not the money that matters most. Being there on the track is. This was one thing Bill was very aware of.

I am sure this is what made him seem so happy most of the time.

Again, Thank you for being there for those of us who just don't know how to say what we feel. You can be sure we will be walking the pits after the races next year and this time, when my daughter wants to walk up and meet one of you, I will not tell her "No, that driver did not have a good night tonight. He/she probably does not want to talk right now."

The chance meetings she has had left indelible impressions in all of our minds.

Godspeed 'Wild' Bill

- the "Family Section"

I have come to the conclusion through my own private and written ramblings that there few better places to learn about, experience and develop character that at a local race track.

I have never met a better bunch of people.

-Jack Smith

{note: as of this writing over $25,000 has been raised for the seven year old son of Bill Revard}

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