Ocala Speedway Is Taking Shape
by BJ Cavin
Grading underway under the lights Friday night as Michael Peters shows two racers the continuing work.
As most people are caught up in the hub-bub that the final weeks before Christmas tend to create, the staff at Ocala Speedway is continuing daily efforts to get the track ready for some dirt track action early next year. So far nature has been more than cooperative with that effort, providing warm temperatures and not a hint of rain. But that all changes for the weekend with possible heavy rain predicted, so on Friday the lights were switched on and the work continued into the night. The track will be locked tight on Saturday as everyone allows the rain to give the staff, and especially track owner Michael Peters, a much needed day off.
The entire racing surface is now covered with about 14 inches of clay. However, more clay is needed to fill in at the bottom of the turns, especially in turns 1 and 2. That clay should be arriving on Monday and will be spread into place. Meanwhile the task at hand was getting the track somewhat ready for a possible deluge from the weather, and that involved the first grading of the clay and a good round of packing. That should hold the clay in place and allow most of the rain to run off, then work can resume by Monday morning.
Those who raced at Ocala Speedway before the track was paved might be interested to know that this new track will not be like the old one. When the track was paved it was thought to be too narrow, so about 10 feet was added to the bottom before the asphalt was applied. Now that new clay is being added over the asphalt the track is again being widened, this time by yet another 6 to 8 feet, making this version of Ocala Speedway a full 16 feet wider than the old dirt track was. There have been no changes to the overall layout of the track except adding more racing room down low, and the overall slope of the banking remains near 7 degrees.
As has been the case throughout the process of resurfacing the track, racers and fans continually drop by to see the changes for themselves, and Michael Peters is more than happy to show off his new creation. So far approximately 340 loads of clay have been added to Ocala Speedway, and it is estimated that up to 60 more loads may be needed to finish the project completely. That clay is scheduled to begin arriving on Monday, and after it is in place the work of grooming, grading, and packing, can begin in earnest. The track will be continually worked until late in January when the first open practice sessions are planned.
Even with the actual track in place, there are other major projects to tackle before the gates open in late February/early March. One project is the front stretch wall which needs to be extended to provide more protection for the fans. The plan is to install a guardrail above the existing wall, but other options are currently being researched. The thought is that a guardrail may obstruct the fans' view of the track so maybe something less bulky might do the job, especially since the frontstretch is protected with one of the top catch cable systems in Florida.
Another project is increasing the capacity of the turn 4 retention area and reworking the drain that allows excess water to flow under turn 4 and out of the speedway. Once that is done, barriers will be installed to keep cars from possibly ending up in the retention area, and from crossing the infield at various points. There is also a plan in place to create a true "winner's circle" in the infield in front of the flag pole. Water from the retention area can be used to wet the track, or can be pumped out of the facility if needed. The rest of the infield is being protected to preserve the grass that is there now, and not allow the infield to become an eyesore as is the case with so many dirt tracks. And then there is that figure 8 X in the middle, which at some point will be used on a regular basis again. While it will not be covered in dirt now, that could happen sometime in the not so distant future.
Many other projects remain to be done as well, including the continuing work on the existing facilities with upgrades, cleaning, and other details. A completely new staff must be hired to accent the staff additions and modifications that have already been announced, and that process will begin the second week in January during a week long job fair. More information on the job fair will be forthcoming. And in addition, Michael Peters is attempting to field 30 to 50 calls a day on both the speedway phone and his personal phone as well. Some of those calls and messages have not been answered promptly because of all of the work that is ongoing, but Peters promises that as more gets done there will be more time to discuss issues concerning drivers and fans.
Time is an issue because of the approaching holidays. While every effort is being made to get the work done, Ocala Speedway is a family and family time over the holidays is very important. Work will resume on Monday morning and will continue on a daily basis until the holidays, then resume again after the New Year. And in addition, the rules are being tweaked and more division rules are close to being posted at www.OcalaSpeedway.com.
And although many have asked, begged, pleaded, and even offered favors, Michael Peters insists that no practice laps will be allowed until the first open practice in late January. But he welcomes drivers and fans who wish to see the continuing work and want to drop by the speedway on weekdays. Although the work may not allow him to be as friendly and outgoing as he might like to be, there is no harm in watching him work.
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