Will a Civil War Break Out to Decide Speedfest's Successor? By Mike Twist
Columbia Announces Big SLM Race Right After South Georgia Race Was Announced...on The Same Date
When Speedfest got its start at Florida's USA International Speedway in 2005, it was the start of a good-natured racing Civil War. Competitors from the Midwest and Northeast - even Canada - towed down to the track and faced off against their Southern rivals. Promoters even divided the competitors into teams of North and South. A “N” or “S” was placed next to car numbers to remind fans who was who.
Bragging rights went Northward when Charlie Menard won the first Speedfest race. Mike Fritts took one for the home team in 2006. Midwestern Eddie Hoffman won in 2007 and Floridian Jeff Choquette last year's race. Along the way, there were some heated moments between competitors from different regions too - like Jay Middleton (Florida) vs. Ben Rowe (Maine) or Patrick Laperle (Quebec) vs. Eddie Van Meter (Indiana).
This past season was the last running of Speedfest at USA International Speedway. The track abruptly closed last month after being sold to become a commercial real estate development.
Now, the battle to replace Speedfest in late January is becoming its own Civil War.
Recently, officials from the CRA Super Series, which was involved in the promotion and race directing of Speedfest from the beginning, announced a big-money Super Late Model race to take place on the traditional weekend of Speedfest, January 23rd-25th, at South Georgia Speedway. CLICK HERE FOR ANNOUNCEMENT
On Wednesday, another “replacement” for Speedfest was announced by Columbia Motorsports Park and FASCAR, who co-promoted Speedfest with CRA in years' past, by the following press release:
“Lake City, FL Aug 20, 2008; Upon the closing of USA International Speedway on August 2nd, Don Nerone owner of Columbia Motorsports Park in Lake City, FL has committed to continuing the tradition of Speedfest “The North/South Shootout“.
The 6th annual Speedfest 2009 will be a three day event beginning January 23rd and ending Sunday January 25th. The 2009 event will have a different format than years past by combining all types of ABC body late models into one group that will allow them to compete against each other through a variety of handicaps for the higher horse powered competitors.
Don Nerone, founder of Speedfest, said “Speedfest has been a success from the beginning, while the event hasn't drawn the northern cars the way we had hoped, this year we are promoting the event coast to coast for all drivers to come try their skills and equipment against the best late model drivers in the south.”
Speedfest has been a co-sanctioned event between northern and southern series however for 2009 Columbia Motorsports Park is committed to hosting this event independently on its full 1⁄2 mile paved oval. The event is expected to draw competitors from as far away as Canada and the Midwest on their way to the Sunshine State's 43rd Annual World Series of Asphalt held every February at New Smyrna Speedway. Updates on this event will be coming soon and posted at www.columbiamotorsportspark.com.”
Both tracks are separated by approximately 70 miles, so there will no doubt be a battle for both teams and fans in late January.
Speed51.com will keep you updated as more details of both races become known.
Where will Northern SLM drivers like Ben Rowe (Top) and Southerners like Tim Russell (Bottom) be racing in late January? That remains to be seen.