So here we are on day three of sunny Florida and sunny it is. The weather is perfect with highs in the 80’s and lows only dipping into the high 60’s. This is the weather we came to experience. Bruce and I did not go to New Smyrna like the two previous nights but did read on the net that the entire show was over at 10:15. Hats off to management for returning to the show we were accustom to. Also it was the last time of the vacation we would see our traveling friends. Allan and Nancy Brown started the trip north at the conclusion of the East Bay feature, Ed Esser was going to take in Volusia County Wednesday then head north to Michigan and Al Robinson told us he was starting the trip north to New York Wednesday afternoon. We are staying until Saturday night then after the racing program at DeSoto we are heading out. Part of the fun of this Florida trip is the socializing with friends you only get to see several times a year. We wish them all a safe trip home.
Tuesday night we decided to take in the 410 sprints at East Bay Raceway Park , my favorite track in Florida. In the past this was an All Star sanctioned event that would draw 60 to 70 sprint cars but now the event is non-sanctioned since 2004 and last year very few cars showed up because it was being run within so many hours of a World of Outlaw event. We were hoping this year would have a better turn-out. The two day event was labeled the 410 Sprint Winternationals and it is the 33rd Anniversary Season.
We stopped on the ride over to the track to check out some motorhomes along the way. When we retire we hope to purchase one of the smaller versions, in the 24 foot range, to hit the race circuit. We pulled onto the parking lot at East Bay at 4:15 for some relaxation and to watch the cars and fans file in. Hot laps were not scheduled until 6:00 but it was nice sitting in the shade of some palm plants and reading a book. Bruce kept car counts and although it was more then last year the car count was only 22 410 sprints. Al Robinson had the quote when he stated “East Bay is Port Royal South". After he said that I thought you know you do not need 60 cars to have a good event just enough good cars to put on a good feature race. We go to see 25-30 410 sprints at Williams Grove every Friday and never complain. Along with the 410 sprints were the 360 East Bay sprints and there were 11 in the pits. The show started with time trials for the 410s with Fred Rahmer setting fast time followed by Greg Hodnett and Mark Smith. Still sounds like Port Royal South. This was followed by two heats for the 360 sprints then three for the 410s. At 8:35 all qualifying was complete and there were only two features left to run.
The 360s ran a 20 lap main event that went non-stop. Gene Lasker passed Paulie Milum at the crossed flags and went on to pick up the win in the #01 Army sponsored sprint. The 410 feature was 25 laps and only 20 of the 22 cars made the starting grid. Racing was fast and furious but came to a halt on lap 11 when fourth place runner, Danny Holtgraver, caught the back stretch wall and barrel rolled down into turn three. It was a nasty looking crash but Holtgraver luckily was uninjured. Hodnett who was running second pursued race leader Wayne Johnson of Oklahoma and it might have been a close one as they ran through traffic but the second and final caution of the event waved on lap 21 when Greg Leonard did the slowest Tommy tipover I have ever seen. The red did not even come out. Racing resumed and Johnson won over Hodnett, Daryn Pitman, Mark Smith and Terry McCarl. All racing was complete by 9:51. We stood around awhile saying our good-byes and wishing everyone safe travel before finally exiting the grounds at 10:15. It was not the high car count of the past but it was sprints at East Bay and no trip to Florida would be complete without seeing sprints here at my favorite track in Florida.