June 1st, St. Augustine, FL -- With summer break fast approaching St. Johns County schools and the school workload winding down, Florida Speed Park and many of the drivers are planning a special treat for kids this weekend -- a ride in the...
June 1st, St. Augustine, FL -- With summer break fast approaching St. Johns County schools and the school workload winding down, Florida Speed Park and many of the drivers are planning a special treat for kids this weekend -- a ride in the race cars around the speedway.
"I've seen this done at other race tracks and it is incredible fun for the youngsters," says speedway manager Louis Smith. "Many of the cars have open areas on the passenger side where a child can hop in and go for a ride. The drivers go pretty slow, but it's still a huge thrill." In addition to the rides, the speedway is letting all children ages 12 and under in free.
All six local divisions will be in action Saturday, plus return visits by the North Florida Caged Karting Association and the Dwarf Cars.
"We may have a little too much on the program this week," adds Smith, "if it's possible to have too much racing."
The speedway enters into June with division battles and rivalries heating up across the board. While Jay Farris and Brad Pilinko had each gotten off to strong points leads in the Tattoo Dee's Old Rooster Mini Stocks and Alpha Communications Hobby Stocks, respectively, their pace has slowed lately, allowing others to close the gap. Wade Lynn's commanding lead in the Thunder Truck division diminished this past weekend, following his encounter with the wall along the backstretch. Though his truck was heavily damaged, he is expected to return Saturday night.
Donnie Oden is clinging to a narrow lead over Jeremy Fitch and Larry Osteen in the Late Model division, while Jody Turner is within easy striking distance of all three.
Robert Deal is maintaining his torrid pace in the Rick's Muffler Modifieds, extending his lead over Chuck Cumby, who dropped to third behind Jimmy Britts following Britts' record-setting night last Saturday. Deal, who sits in third place in the national ARA championship chase by less than four points, has taken command over the division by electing to start in the rear of the field on numerous occasions while at the same time posting three wins and consistent top five finishes.
To date, Todd Ponce remains the only runaway on the heels of six consecutive wins in the Sportsman division, building a significant lead over Jason Garver. Ponce, who is in the top ten in the national ARA points battle, carries a $400 bounty heading into this weekend's race.
With the speedway's revamped scoring system for the 2000 season, awarding passing and advancement through the field in addition to finishing and qualifying positions, there is a lot more volatility in the standings. It has also made for more action in the division races, with drivers opting for deeper starting positions in order to accumulate more points.
"This new points system is based on the belief that a driver's ability to manipulate through traffic, to work the field and pick off competitors on his or her way towards the front of the pack, is as, if not more so, valuable than simply finishing up front, especially if that's where a driver starts," says Smith. "So far, the points are rewarding those drivers who have shown the most ability to date, but it is still early in the season."
The action gets started this weekend at 6:45 pm, with the kids rides in the race cars taking place at approximately 8:00 pm. The first 100 children through the gates will receive free miniature checkered flags.