FEBRUARY TRIP TO THE SUN (part two) 22nd Feb 2024

Volusia Speedway Park, Florida 15th February 2024 Rick @ the Races

February Trip to the Sun  (part two)

My last Blog left off , on Saturday the 10th of February.

I’d just visited the Bubba Raceway Park near Ocala in Florida which had brought the first week to an end.

I’d been staying at the Red Roof Inn , in Gainseville , Florida for three nights. 

Sunday the 11th of February .

I checked out of the hotel at about 10-00 am and set off for my next Florida destination .

It was the Sun Deck Motel on Ormond Beach.

I arrived a bit early , but was able to check into my room before 2-00 pm.

With many Americans getting all excited about the ‘Super Bowl’ that was taking place that day , my racing choices were limited .

The New Smyrna paved speedway had something going on ,as part of their annual ‘World Series’, so that’s where I headed.


I got there about 5-00 pm and met up with some friends  from Gatineau , Quebec.

My decision to go there was a last minute thing, and hadn’t applied for credentials, so after taking a few pictures from the infield pits, I joined my two friends in the grandstand.

The program consisted of NASCAR pavement modifieds and Late Models.

It was a chilly night, and after getting bored to tears , watching  solo lap qualifying for over an hour, I’d had enough !

If you’ve been used to the excitement of dirt racing  for many years like I have, it’s hard to get excited about this.

I made an early exit and returned to my room at Ormond Beach.

Monday the 12th of February.

The Sun Deck Motel, is my kind of place, an old style of Motel, with  rooms  on ground level , with a front porch outside your door for relaxing.

To top this , it was only a few 100 yards to the beach from their private entrance.

So after a lazy day on the beach, I set off for the nights races.

The main reason for this trip was to attend The DirtCar Nationals at the Volusia Speedway Park, near Barberville.

They’d got underway a few weeks ago , with various divisions but the high light for me and the climax , was the finale that ended with four nights of Super DirtCar Series races.

They were to begin on Wednesday with the Monday and Tuesday shows consisting of DirtCar Late Models and the USAC Sprint cars.

I’d seen the USACS  a few days previous at the Bubba Raceway Park , so was looking forward to seeing them again.

On arrival , the first people I met were some fellow Trackchasers, Gordy Killian from Pennsylvania, and Bruce and Pat Eckel from Indiana.

We had a quick chat in the parking lot before I had to leave them, and get myself on to the middle.

The USAC cars were also pitted in the middle. My friends from England were out there with Brit driver Tom Harris 

I’ve been to the Volusia track many times, and it’s never been a good one for photo ‘ops’ .

On the middle ,  it has high fences almost all the way round ,  with only a few gaps to get decent pictures .

I remember being at the track back in 2010 , when I went to the local Walmart to buy a step ladder. I still have it, but it’s now  getting a bit flimsy so I never bothered  to pack it.

I had to ‘make do’ for the  first night, but decided to rectify the situation the next day.

After the heat races , we had a small intermission for track prep.

While this was taking place,  I felt a few spots of rain , which gradually got heavier.

I returned to my car and , and within minutes , it became obvious the night was over, so headed back to the Sun Deck.

Later it was announced that the USAC feature would be run the next night and the one for the Late Models would be postponed until Wednesday.

Tuesday the 13th

I was out of bed  by 7-00 am on Tuesday, so decided to make an early morning visit to the nearest Home Depot , which just happened to be located next to the Daytona International Speedway.

I’d googled their step ladder options on line , and they had affordable ones for about 40 bucks .

Once that was sorted out , I felt happy , that I was  all set for good picture taking .

On my way back to Ormond Beach , I met up  at U Hop for breakfast with my friends Ron Morin and Reina. They’d also driven down from Cornwall and were staying at Brent Markel’s rented bungalow at  Ormand on Sea . Brent is the dad of Ron’s grandson Gage Morin, who races 358 Modifieds.

Once back at the Sun Deck,  it was time to relax on the beach before the nights races.

The Volusia Speedway is about a 35 minute drive and I was there for 4-00 pm.

I set up my stuff on the middle on turn one.

Once again it was DirtCar Late Models and the USAC Sprints on the program.

The Sprints were to have two features with the rain-delayed Monday race at the end of the night.

Both were won by Logan Seavey.

Things got wrapped up by about 11-00 pm and I was soon heading back to my room.

Wednesday 14th February.

This was the big day, as the Super Dirtcar Series Big Block Modifieds began the first night of their four day tour.

Once again the DirtCar Late Models would be on the program.

Before heading to the track , I made a lunchtime visit to 95 & Vine in Port Orange to visit my long time friend Martin Clark.

Martin , a fellow ‘Brit’, originally from Colchester, Essex,  bought the business about nine years ago, after relocating from the Charlotte NC area. 

We were both contributors to the UK’s , Short Circuit Magazine until it ceased publication.

From there, I drove to the nearby Daytona Flea Market. It’s always worth a look.

I arrived at the track at my usual time of 4-00 pm to get my equipment on the middle, then took a pit wander.

There were 48  Big Block Modifieds booked in and a good number of Canadians.

I chatted with Charlie Millar and his Trailer Country team that are based in Perth , Ontario.

For the Florida tour ,  Charlie’s son Corbin 66m was to be  joined by Cornwall’s Corey Wheeler 47s who would be driving their ‘back up’ car.

It was great to see so many of our northern  Modifieds make the long trek south.

When it came to feature time there were no surprises with the result .

Matt Sheppard was the winner, collecting his 500th career win.

Matt’s been around for over 20 years now , and I was present at Autodrome Drummond back in 2004 when he captured his first Super Dirt Series win.

Wednesday nights show, ended with the rain delayed Late Model feature from Monday.

Thursday 15th of February.

I started the day with a short drive to Brent Markel’s place to visit Ron and Reina. Brent wasn’t there when I arrived , but as we sat there drinking coffee he turned up.

He’d been to the Airport to pick up Gage , Gabriel Cyr who’s  another of my local drivers and one of their crew guys, that flown down to watch. 

The rest of my day was spent on the beach, until it was race time.

The second night of Big Block Modifieds was won by Ontario . Canada’s Mat Williamson.

It was a great sight to see, as friends and crew sang ‘Oh Canada’ in Victory Lane.

It’s always a fun time when Mat wins.

The Late Model Feature ended the night

Friday 16th February

It was another morning on the beach before I headed to night three of the Super DirtCar tour at Volusia.

The regular ‘togs’ were joined by a new recruit for this one . My buddy Don Simpson was on a touring vacation of the area with his wife Lise , and he’d managed to slip tonights show into their itinerary.

Pictured left to right, Quentin Young , Me, G.T Smith, Don, Joe Grabianowski, and George Smith.

The big talking point with everyone, was the weather forecast for the next day, Saturday and the final night.

Rain was expected all over the region and events at some other tracks had already cancelled . It was a game of wait and see.

As for Friday,  the show  went along smoothly with not a hint of rain.

The big race of the night gave Matt Sheppard yet another win.

So, the penultimate night was over, and we all left the track, wondering if we’d be back the next day.

Saturday the 17th February

There was no rain when I awoke , but with the doubt surrounding the evenings show, I had packed stuff in my car ready to make a move.

Although I’d got my room booked for the final night, if a rain cancelation was announced early enough, I would head for home.

It was starting to drizzle out side my room,  when at around 11-00 am , I saw the expected cancelation announcement on line.

It also stated that this years series winner was Mat Williamson, who had scored more points over the three days than Matt Sheppard. (although Williamson had just the one win, compared to Sheppard, he had good podium finishes in the other two)

I threw the rest of the stuff into my car , then  made a  quick phone call to my daughter Carla, to expect me about 9-00 pm.

I got away from the Motel at mid day and pulled into her driveway in Willow Springs , North Carolina at 9-15 pm.

Sunday the 18th February

I left Carla’s at 7-00 am and made some good progress right up to Syracuse , New York.

Before reaching Watertown NY , I felt the reality of living in the north, when I encountered a big Lake Effect snow storm. I needed to stop for gas and was lucky enough to tag behind a snow plow  most of the way up I81 to the border.

Once back into  Canada the snow eased off a little for the first stretch of Hwy 401, but by the time I reached Prescott it was getting bad again .

Some of the transport trucks out there were driving like idiots,  so, decided to leave the 401 at Cardinal and take the old Hwy 2 back to Cornwall.

I pulled into my driveway at 11-30 pm, a bit later than I expected .

What a contrast in driving conditions, sunshine in the morning and snow storms later.