FLORIDA

Zephyrhills Airfield (1950)
Lake Wales Municipal Airport (1952)
St. Lucie Airport "Drag Strip" (1952)
​Boca Raton Airfield (1953)
MacDill Air Force Base (1953)​
Miami "Drag Strip" (1953)
Brooksville Municipal Airport (1954)
Buckingham Field/Drag Strip (Fort Myers) (1954)
​Central Florida Speedway (Casselberry) (1954)
Homestead Air Force Base (1954)
Kay Larkin Airport (Palatka) (1954)
Panama City "Drag Strip" (1954)
Kissimmee Airfield (1955)
Lake City Municipal Airport (1955)​
Amelia Earhart Field (Hialeah) (1956)
Prospect Field (Fort Lauderdale) (1956)
​Punta Gorda Airport (1956)
Sebring Airstrip (1956)
Tyndall Air Force Base (1956)
Dunnellon Airport (1957)​
Flagler Beach Airport (Daytona Beach) (1957)
Pensacola Drag Strip (Klondike Road) (1957)
Titusville-Cocoa Airport (1957)
Venice Municipal Airport (1958)​​
Davie Drags (1959)
Golden Triangle Drag Strip/Twin City Dragway (Oldsmar) (1959)
Master Airfield (Miami) (1959)
Sebastian Municipal Airport (1959)
Spruce Creek Airport (Samsula) (1959)
Eau Gallie Speedway (1950s)​
Eglin Air Force Base Auxiliary Field No. 4 (Fort Walton) (1960)
Sunset Dragway (Panama City Beach) (1960)
Sunshine Drag Strip/Showtime Dragstrip (Clearwater) (1960)
Thunderbolt Raceway (Orange Park) (1960)
Daytona International Speedway (1961)
Osceola Drag Strip (1961)
Tampa Dragway (1961)
Seminole Dragway (Tallahassee) (1962)
Valkaria Dragway (Port Malabar) (1962)
Buccaneer Drag Strip (Fernandina Beach) (1963)
Malone Dragway/Tri-State Drag Strip (1963)
Palm Beach International Raceway (Jupiter) (1965)
Central Florida Dragway/Orlando Speed World Dragway (1966)
DeLand Municipal Airport (1966)
Miami-Hollywood Speedway Park (Pembroke Pines) (1966)
Okaloosa Drag Strip (Baker) (1966)
Corry Field (Pensacola) (1967)
Tallahassee Speedway Park/Raceway (1969)
Gainesville Raceway (1969)​
Jacksonville Dragway/Jax Raceways (1960s)​​
Lakeland International Raceway/Drag Strip (1971)
DeSoto Memorial Dragway/Bradenton Motorsports Park (1971)
Naples "Drag Strip" (1976)
Immokalee Airport (1977)
Panama City Beaches Speedway (1977)
Powerhouse Drag Strip/Breakaway Dragway (Fountain) (1991)
Sebring Dragway (1993) 
Emerald Coast Dragway (Holt) (1998)
Immokalee Regional Raceway (1999)
Countyline Dragway (Pembroke Pines) (2007)


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Ollie Olsen's A/G Willys at Miami Speedway Park, 1966. Photographer unknown

Amelia Earhart Field (Hialeah)

 
Located at the north end of East 8th Avenue in Hialeah, drag races were held here for three decades. They were also held at the larger Master Field airport adjacent to it on the east side. One online source dates drag racing at Amelia Earhart to 1954 when it apparently hosted the Florida State Championships. However newspaper research by DSL clearly dates drag racing's beginning to 1956, not 1954. Navy officials permitted drag racing to be held for the first time on April 8, 1956. The Dade County police supervised the races, which were conducted by the Road Ramblers car club. It was initiated in an effort to curb street racing. At the third race held on June 3, 1956, 5,500 spectators watched 135 racers compete. Dick Addison's Cad-engined '32 Ford roadster went 101.12 MPH for the fastest speed. Further confirming 1956 as the opening year is that what newspapers said was the "first Florida state championship drag races" were held at Amelia Earhart Field on November 10-11, 1956. They were sponsored by the South Florida Timing Association and sanctioned by NHRA. The annual Florida state drag championships were moved to Daytona Beach and then to Buckingham Field in 1959.  In 1959-62, the racing was sanctioned by NHRA and races were held on the first and third Sunday of each month. Ernie Schorb and Harry Steele, members of the Cabriolets car club,  were two of the men who ran the drag races. Today nothing remains of the old airfield. It was bounded on the north by East 65th Avenue, on the south by the Little River Canal, on the east by rail tracks, and west by East 8th Avenue.
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January 19, 1958
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1959
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March 18, 1962
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Boca Raton Airfield

 
Drag races were one of the events held at Boca Raton's 3-day Winter Carnival of Speed on November 25-27, 1953. The racing was held at the Boca Raton Airfield. Top speed at the quarter-mile drag races was set by Homer Claytor of Tampa. He drove his Ranger Special to a speed of 132 MPH. George Nelson of Miami took the win in the modified class in his '31 Ford with a speed of 124.75. The events seemed to be more in the nature of speed trials than drag races. The quarter-mile drag races were held on November 26 and the half-mile contests (using a rolling start) were contested on November 27. Although they may have not technically been drag races between two cars, newspapers referred to them as drag races. The drag races in the 1954 Carnival were held at the Air Base on January 31-February 4.
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November 25, 1953

Brooksville Municipal Airport

 
Drag races were first conducted on this airport drag strip in 1954 by the West Coast Timing Association (WCTA). It had a concrete surface, which proved conducive to fast speeds and times. The airport was first built and opened by the U. S. Army Air Force, then sold after the war to the city of Brooksville. The WCTA got permission to use the north-south runway for their Sunday races beginning with their first race on February 28, 1954. Don Garlits raced there a lot in 1956,1957, and 1958, calling it one of his favorite drag strips. He especially enjoyed it because the races were well run by the Junior Chamber of Commerce.  On September 28, 1958, Don turned 173.077 MPH. His brother, Ed Garlits, turned 134.328 MPH in his dragster.  Information is found on it in Hot Rod Magazine, (Apr. 1954): 51, but more research is needed. The race on October 26, 1958, was the strip's first under NHRA sanction. Don Garlits was the top eliminator on January 11, 1959, hitting 145.161 MPH in 9.85 seconds. On January 25, 1959, Don Garlits clocked a faster speed (166.666 MPH) than Serop Postoian (163.636 MPH) in a world title challenge race,  On February 22, 1959, Art Arfons clocked 180.905 MPH and Don Garlits turned a best of 173.769 MPH. Arfons' speed was an unofficial world record mark for fuel, beating Garlits' old mark of 180 MPH. On April 12, 1959, Ed Garlits was top eliminator with a 9.99 ET at 147.541 MPH run.  On April 26, 1959, Don Garlits set an unofficial world record of 185.566 MPH in 8.369 seconds at Brooksville. This beat the then recognized world record of 181.818 set by Art Chrisman at Bakersfield seven weeks before. Don credited his success with an improved setup with his new supercharger. The last drag race at Brooksville ran on May 17, 1959. A 15-year-old boy was killed in a non-race-related accident at that race. However the halting of races at Brooksville seems more related to the opening of the nearby Golden Triangle Drag Strip than to any backlash from the youth's death.
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Buccaneer Drag Strip (Fernandina Beach)

 
This drag strip operated at least as early as 1963 on a runway at the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport. Nick Smith was the track manager in the 1963-64 era. Bob Tucker came out on top of a field of fifteen stockers on August 11, 1963 with his '63 aluminum-bodied Chevy.  However, some of the top stock drag racers in the southeast failed to show after a disagreement over classification. Later in the year on September 24, Tucker again topped the field, beating out Hubert Platt in the final with 11.25 ET at 122 MPH. In a 3-out-of-5 match race on February 9, 1964, Tucker beat Hubert Platt. At Buccaneer, Tucker had Platt's number.  At one gas dragster meet during that period, Pete Robinson set a strip record with 173.07 MPH and 8.44 ET. More research is needed to identify the range of years this track operated.
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October 13, 1963

Buckingham Field/Drag Strip (Fort Myers)

 
Located ten miles east of Fort Myers, drag races began being held on a discontinued concrete runway at Buckingham Field at least by 1954. Research in newspapers found a drag race being held as early as Sundays in January 1954. The car reported to be the fastest was a 1940 Ford coupe powered by an Olds V-8. At a race on February 27, 1955, almost 1,000 people saw Walter Carlton win top eliminator on his Triumph Trophy with a 12.9 second ET. The races were sponsored by the Fort Myers Rod Rattlers. The NHRA southeastern regional races were held at Buckingham on July 3-4, 1955. The 2-day race drew about 2,000 spectators, despite occasional interruptions by rain. The top eliminator was Charles "Pop" Winslow with a time of 11.6 on his Harley Davidson cycle. Ora Cook took top eliminator in his dragster with a run of 12.6 seconds on October 9, 1955. Don Garlits was top eliminator on December 18, 1955, with a 12.8 second time. The Southwest Florida Championship Drag Races were held on September 2-3, 1956. Dennis Hess took top eliminator on his motorcycle, but Don Garlits was the quickest at the meet with a time of 11 seconds at 141 MPH. The race drew over 1,500 spectators. In 1959, a spectator was killed in a freak non-racing, parking area-related accident. On September 5-7, 1959, NHRA held a 3-day Florida State Championships at Buckingham. About 1,800 people attended and watched 150 racers compete. Ed Garlits turned 142 MPH in his B dragster. The Quarter Milers car club began putting on the races in 1959. Driving for Don Garlits, Art Malone clocked an unofficial world record of 8.19 seconds on November 22, 1959.  On March 27, 1960, the strip, looking to try something novel, had a combination foot and drag race for some of the stock car drivers. They had to run two hundred feet to their cars, start them, and race to the finish. They decided that the next time they held such a race, that the foot race "may be shortened as most of the boys were out of breath . . . when they reached the cars." On August 13, 1960, the track held the first night drag races. They rented searchlights from a Miami company. At the 4th annual Florida state championship ending on September 5, 1960, Ed Pantley set a new track record during competition for top eliminator with 174.001 MPH. That was not the fastest speed as Don Garlits had run 189 MPH during exhibition runs several months before, but it was the fastest during competition. Pantley drove a dual-engine Chevy-powered dragster. In 1963 Hot Rod Magazine schedule lists it was just called Fort Myers Drag Strip. On March 25, 1962, Dennis Cravero, age 23 from Coral Gables, was killed driving his Olds-powered dragster. He lost control after being clocked at 157.985 MPH. An NHRA southeast regional race was held at Buckingham on May 2, 1965. The Buckingham track held an NHRA points meet on May 15, 1966. Bobby Wren was the track manager when the strip held its final drag race on November 20, 1966. Jay Feener attended a race at Buckingham and vividly remembers seeing a cow wander across the strip during the races in the shudown area.
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October 9, 1955
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November 22, 1959
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December 29, 1963
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A 1956 Ford and a Triumph TR3 face each other at Buckingham Drag Strip at the rain-plagued Southwest Florida Championships in 1957. Photo published in Fort Myers News-Press, Sep.2, 1957

Central Florida Dragway/Orlando Speed World Dragway

  • Years of Operation: 1966-present
 
According to an online source , drag racing started in 1966. This bears out newspaper research conducted by DSL.  Located at Bithlo, the $200,000 track was owned and managed by Billy Herndon. The track opened on October 16, 1966, with 200 racers competing. The next week, Hank McAleenan won top stock eliminator in his '65 Dodge with an 11.61 ET at 131 MPH. In a match race, Randy Peyton of Orlando upset Tommy Ivo with a best time of 203 MPH at 7.62. Ivo was beset in runs with a broken rear axle and wheelstanding problems. Peyton returned on Thanksgiving Day to get beaten in a match race against Val LaPorte. In beating Peyton, LaPorte set a new track record with a clocing of 7.5 at 221 MPH. In March 1967, NHRA pulled its sanction of the strip because its failure to comply with sanctioning and safety requirements. Billy Herndon made no effort to get reinstated. "Why should I have an NHRA sanction or any other sanction?" Herndon asked. "If I meet the proper safety standards and provide the right amount of insurance, there's no reason to be santioned." Herndon back-pedaled on his comments because he obtained AHRA sanctioning in December 1968. On December 15, 1968, the strip hosted AHRA's Super Experimental Stock S/FX National Championships. The top eight cars in the country filled out the field including Don Nicholson, Larry Arnold, Malcolm Durham, Jim Liberman, and Arnie Beswick. Beswick won the meet and, in the process, set a new track record of 194.36 MPH. Earlier in the year, Don Garlits set a new track record with a run of 7.06 seconds at 219.50 MPH. In so doing, he defeated a stellar field of racers including Art Malone, Chris Karamesines, and Marvin Schwartz.  On October 27, 1968, Garlits set a strip speed record of 223.32 MPH to win the East Coast Fuel Dragster Championships. The relationship with AHRA must not have been satisfactory to Herndon as he decided to continue running without sanction in 1969. In February he put on what he called the 1969 Winterchampionships, with over $16,000 in the purse. That attracted a lot of racers from distant states. Doug Rose set a top speed track record in his "Green Mamba" jet dragster with a 254.20 MPH run. Shirl Greer won funny car in his Dodge Charger over a 16-car field while Arlen Vanke won Super Stock eliminator. Big events like this and annual fuel dragster and funny car championships were the track's staple to attract racers and spectators alike. Later in 1969 and 1970, Herndon ran events that were sanctioned by the United Drag Racers Association. Herndon flirted with holding rock festivals and championship boxing matches in 1969, but they never materialized. In 1970, they hosted the Drag News Magazine Winternational Championships. Rain spoiled the race on the first two days, so racing was squeezed into a single day on January 4, 1970. The winners in the pro categories were Don Garlits, Shirl Greer, and Sox & Martin in the Super Stock category. Garlits set a new track record with a 6.82 at 229.07 MPH in his final run against Steve Carbone. In 1971, Herndon held races that were sponsored by the Florida Drag Racing Association. In 1972, the track was sanctioned by AHRA, the first race under that sanctioning body being the annual Florida Winter Championships, which AHRA billed as a regional points meet. In July 1972, the track hosted the AHRA All America Funny Car Championships and the Dixie Dragster Championships. In May 1973, the track hosted the AHRA Dixie Pro Stock Championships. At least as early as 1991, and possibly earlier, the track changed its name to Orlando Speedworld Dragway. It runs under NHRA sanction today.
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Listing in ​​​​​​National Dragster, Dec. 23, 1977. Courtesy of Mel Bashore
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Central Florida Dragway, ​​​​ 1972 topo map
Central Florida Dragway, ​​​​ 1969 aerial photo
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March 3, 1973
February 2, 1969
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Central Florida Dragway, 1970, 1:24 minutes

Central Florida Speedway (Casselberry)

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Located midway between Orlando and Sanford, this one-mile NASCAR-sanctioned dirt oval began holding drag races open to spectators after their regular program on August 13, 1954. The races proved popular and were held weekly through the 1954 season. They treated it with calcium chloride to keep down the dust.
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August 15, 1954
The oval at the intersection of Dog Track Road and Highway 17-92 on this 1964 topo map may not be the old speedway as the oval track was reportedly a short way east of that intersection

Corry Field ​​​(Pensacola)

 
Corry Field was a Naval training airfield built west of Pensacola in 1927. The Navy use of Corry Field stopped in mid-1958. Beginning in 1959, Pensacola's Fiesta of Five Flags celebration included sports car races at Corry Field as one of their events. Sports car races continued to be held there periodically.  In 1967, drag races were first held at Corry Field as a part of Pensacola's Fiesta of Five Flags celebration. Fiesta drag races had been held through 1965 at the Pensacola Drag Strip on Klondike Road. In 1966, there was no Fiesta drag race, but in 1967 it was switched to Corry Field. They offered a $2,000 purse. The race was sanctioned by NHRA. They brought in some big-name racers like Chuck Griffith with his "Starlight" top fuel dragster, Bobby Langley, Phil Bonner, and Bruce Larson. Griffith beat Langley in their match race, turning 7.77 seconds at 195.76 MPH. George Warren of Phenix City, Alabama, won top eliminator in the super stock class with his Chevy II, picking up $375. On June 1-2, 1968, they held a 2-day NHRA points meet. Races were followed by a fish fry at the track put on by the Hadji Shrine Temple. Clayton Harris took top fuel honors with a time of 8.70 at 167.91 MPH. He won $500. Preston Davis, who blew an engine in the finals against Harris, had the meet's top speed with a run of 7.74 at 203.16 MPH.  Cliff Smith of New Orleans took top gas eliminator in his AA/GD with a best time of 7.92 at 188.28 MPH.  Doug Rose made exhibition runs in his "Green Mamba" jet dragster at the 1969 Fiesta drag races. His fastest speed was 235 MPH. The last Fiesta drag event at Corry Field was put on in 1970.
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1967
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1968
1958 aerial view of Corry Field

Countyline Dragway (Pembroke Pines)

 
This 1/8th-mile IHRA-sanctioned drag strip was opened by owner Tony Munoz in 2007 in South Florida. It was on the western outskirts of Pembroke Pines in the greater Miami area. It used to be the Opa-Locka West Airport, but that airport closed in 2006 and opened for drag racing the next year.  In 2008, the track built a skidpad to serve as a venue for drifting. Unfortunately this strip was the scene of many bad racing crashes during its brief life (see YouTube). The reason given by the owner for its closing was "rock mining." Since the closing of the airport in 2006, the county had alwayys had plans for using the land for quarrying.
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2007 aerial view of Countyline Dragway
CLICK HERE to see video footage of drag racing crash at Countyline Dragway, 2007, 1:12 minutes
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Announcer Frank Rodriguez fires up the crowd on the starting line at Countyline Dragway. Photo published in ​​South Florida Sun Sentinel, Sep. 16, 2007
Street Racing Made Safe event at Countyline Dragway.  Photo published in ​​South Florida Sun Sentinel, July 14, 2013

Davie Drags

 
The Broward Auto Club conducted NHRA-sanctioned races on the second and fourth Sunday of each month at the Fort Lauderdale-Davie Airport. This airfield opened as a Navy training airfield in World War II. It was a wagon-wheel configuration with four 3,000-foot paved runways with a circular taxiway running around the periphery. During the war it was called Forman NOLF. Drag races started at the Davie Field on June 28, 1959..  Charlie Henault recalled, “My father used to manage a JrU-Tote-Um store across Davie Boulevard from Forman Field in 1957-60.  I would work with him on the weekends while drag races were going on Saturday and Sundays. I was 12 at the time and my job was to sort the soda bottles that were turned in for the 2 cent deposit. There had to be thousands as I would spend all day sorting, both days. When I looked out from the backroom to see what was going on in the front of the store, it was packed. All I can remember the amount of people in the store. They were packed in like sardines. They were all from the races.
This was like this all summer long. This was a very popular event for the Broward community. As I got older I would ride my bike to Forman Field and ride up and down the runways at dusk. I would catch snakes who would crawl on the runways for the heat stored there. I would collect enough to sell to Bill Hass. Bill required 3 burlap bags to make it worth while to him and me and I would be able to get them in 5 or 6 trips. When I got my first car I found a tire dump at the end of the Northwest runway. I would go there and find retread tires that had the sidewall cut but the bead was still good. I could patch the inside of the sidewall and have a free tire.” The old airfield is now the site of the South Florida Education Center, comprising the campuses of
Nova University, Broward Community College, the University of Florida,
Florida International University, and Florida Atlantic University.
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Daytona International Speedway

 
During Daytona Speed Week prior to 1961, drag races were held at various different locations. Starting in 1961, the drag races were held on the long backstretch of the 2.5-mile speedway at 7 P.M. every day from February 17-24.
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DeLand Municipal Airport

 
This city-owned airport is located three miles northeast of DeLand. Its history dates back to the 1920s, with military use during World War II, then reverting back to civil use. In 1965, NASCAR established a Drag Race Division, in an attempt to become more active in that kind of racing than they had previously been. In 1956, NASCAR leased the airport from February 18-26 to run a drag racing event during Speed Week. They called it the International Drag Festival or the NASCAR Drag Race Division Winter Championships. They used a $30,000 purse to attract racers.  They repaved the airport strip and built bleachers to seat 4,000 fans. On February 18, they featured a jet dragster show. Bobby Tatroe ran 226.12 MPH in the "Exodus" jet dragster at the Drag Festival. The 3-day drag races were held on February 23-25. Richard Petty faced Fred Lorenzen in a match race during the drag races. NASCAR upped the purse to $35,000 in 1967 for their week-long winter championship drag festival held in conjunction again with Speed Week. On February 18-19, they held time trials. After a one-day layoff, they resumed with time trials and record runs on February 21. Then followed three days showcasing fuel dragsters and ultra stocks in the Detroit Showdown. Rain plagued NASCAR's 4-day winter drag championships. That was the last year that NASCAR held a drag race at Deland. NASCAR's winter championship experiment was deemed to be mostly unsuccessful and their Drag Division subsequently folded. In fact, in February 1969, the DeLand city commissioners decided against any drag races being held that year at the airport. NASCAR opted not to hold their winter race and they turned down a proposal by the DeLand International Dragways group who wanted to hold 3-day races in February and July. Residents neighboring the airport had complained to the city every year about the noise, but the city finally acquiesced to their complaints in 1969. Then in 1970, the DeLand International Dragways group, led by Ray Bryant, got the city to approve a 3-day event that they held on February 19-21. This was a successful event, so much so that the city voted to grant a 3-year lease to the group.  They permitted them to use the airport four times a year for drag racing events. Breathing new life into the race strip, NHRA sanctioned the track and promoted a big 2-day Super Stock event in early July. Research wasn't able to find out what happened, but that was the last big event at the airport.  An old timer watched a drag race at the airport during NASCAR's Speed Week in February 1970. He recalled, "Spectated at a night match race between Big Daddy and Sneaky Pete Robinson at DeLand Florida airport in February '70, Thursday or Friday night of Speedweek. IIRC single old time search light mounted on the back of a flatbed pointed down the runway for illumination. It  got a little dim down in shutdown. First time I had seen a fire burnout. Wild!"  Occasional drag races have also been held at the airport in recent years.
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1966
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1967
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CLICK HERE to see motorcycle drag races at DeLand Airport, 2009, 4:45 minutes
1970

DeSoto Memorial Dragway/Bradenton Motorsports Park

  • Years of Operation: 1971-present
 
When this track first opened in 1971, it began hosting the IHRA Snowbird Nationals, a traditional winter race whose tradition has persisted now for decades. Stanley Swartz and Gene Tharp built the track and owned it until 1984. In that year, they sold the drag strip to Art Malone, but kept the adjacent oval track. The track has had one race-driver fatality in its history, which happened in 1966 when Rick Metts was killed while testing his Plymouth Duster Pro Stock race car. Crew chief Herb Parks was also killed in 1988 in a freak accident when his top fuel car backed over him at the starting line. The track name was changed to Brandenton Motorsports Park about 2001. It continues to operate as an IHRA sanctioned track today.
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Listing in ​​​​​​National Dragster, Dec. 23, 1977. Courtesy of Mel Bashore
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The simple layout of the DeSoto Dragway is evident in this 1975 ​​ topo map
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Desoto Memorial Dragway, 1994, 3:15 minutes
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Art Malone bought DeSoto Memorial Speedway in 1984. Photo published in Tampa Tribune, July 3, 1984

Dunnellon Airport

 
In April 1957, James A. Sherrill and David White asked the West Marion County commission if they might be permitted  to hold drag races at the Dunnellon Airport. They were told that the airport was under a 10-year lease to Jack Collier. By late May 1957, Sherrill and White reported to the county commission that they had reached an agreement with Collier and were working on getting an acceptable liability policy. All the details were worked out and the commission granted permission for a drag race to be held on Labor Day. The race was sponsored by the Peninsular Timing Association, the Triangle Timing Association, and the Dunnellon Chamber of Commerce. A second race was held on November 17, 1957, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, conducted by the Pininsular Timing Association, and sanctioned by NHRA. A drag race was scheduled for Sunday, April 6, 1958, on the airport runway. It was sponsored by the Peninsular Timing Åssociation. Races were timed at quarter- and half-mile distances. Top eliminator trophy was to be awarded to the best time at the half-mile distance. Two races were held in January 1958, one attracting a record 400 people. Directions were a bit confusing, giving the airport strip as six miles east of the city on the Dunnellon cutoff from Road 200 on Highway 484.
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Eglin Air Force Base Auxiliary Field No. 4 (Fort Walton)

 
The Fort Walton Auto Club, chartered by NHRA, conducted its first drag race on Eglin Auxiliary Field No. 4 on July 3, 1960. Called Peel Field, it is located 5.7 miles west of Valparaiso, Florida. Dating back to World War II, the runways were in a poor state of repair in 1960. The airfield was incorporated into Eglin Air Force Base in late 1959 and inactivated. That is when the Fort Walton Auto Club saw an opportunity to use it for racing. A second race was held on July 17, 1960. A race was held on February 5, 1961, when the track was being called the Phantoms Drag Strip. There was a $500 purse for that race.   Read Bill Capps's and Wallace Josey's memories of racing here in 1960.
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July 3, 1960
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This race for July 17, 1960, appears to have been the last and final race, after a military officer objected to admission being charged at the gate

Emerald Coast Dragway ​(Holt)

 
Bruce Haught and Vernon "Chip" Kooser filed incorporation papers for this 1/8th-mile IHRA-sanctioned drag strip on November 2, 1997. The track opened for racing in May 1998. It was a fast 1/8th-mile track, recording one of the first 3-second Pro Mod runs in 2006, by Joey Moore of Alabama. Richard and Kelly Stephens bought the track in September 2008 from Tim and Sonya Tindle, unaware of the true financial situation and all the improvements needed. After a 2-year legal battle and significant financial outlay, they finally decided to close the track for good in late 2011. They just could not afford to make the necessary improvements and had defaulted on their payments to the Tindles. They had spent their life savings in the effort, but just couldn't make it work.. In 2016, Ozzy Moya bought Emerald Coast and reopened it for racing after making significant upgrades. It was the fourth strip that he acquired and brought back into operation.
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July 4, 1998
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CLICK HERE to view TV report of Ozzy Moya purchasing the shuttered Emerald Coast Dragway in 2016, 1:43 minutes
CLICK HERE to see video footage of  Emerald Coast Dragway in 2008, 1:19 minutes

Eau Gallie Speedway

 
According to DSL reader Jerry Patterson, his dad (Pat) used to compete in drag races at Eau Gallie Speedway. That oval track was built and operated by Larry Sunbrock in 1957. Research has not found when drag races were a part of its racing program. The oval track was also called Melbourne Speedway.
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Flagler Beach Airport (Daytona Beach)

 
The first drag races at the airport were held in February 1957, sponsored by the Kingsmen's Club of Flagler Beach under NASCAR supervision. In May 1957, races began being held every second and fourth Sunday. On January 5, 1958, Hyler Craft set a new track record with a 122.449 MPH run in his Pontiac-engined dragster.  Drag races were held nightly between February 15-22, 1958 during the NASCAR International Safety and Performance Trials. They were held in conjunction with runs on the measured mile runs on Daytona Beach. Speed Week held the drag races there in 1959 and 1960 also. NHRA held its first Winternationals race here, in a combined race with NASCAR in 1960. They awarded marble trophies to class winners (see photo of trophy in Rick Goodsell's Memoiries ).
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NHRA/NASCAR 1960 Winter Nationals program. Courtesy of Rick Goodsell

Gainesville Raceway

  • Years of Operation: 1969-present
 
The track, originially owned and built by James Raulerson, opened in 1969 and hosted the first Gatornationals event in 1970. In announcing Gainesville Dragway (the name it went by originally) as the site for the Gatornationals, Wally Parks said, "We chose Gainesville because of the excellent facilities here and because it is so conveniently located." The first Gatornationals was held on February 13-15, 1970 with a purse totalling more than $140,000. The winners in the top three pro categories were Dave Chenevert (top fuel), Leonard Hughes (funny car), and Bill Jenkins (pro stock). In the 1971 Gatornationals, Jimmy King took top fuel, Leroy Goldstein captured funny car, and Ronnie Sox garnered pro stock. The Gatornationals has been the site of a number of drag racing firsts: the first 260 MPH runs in Top Fuel and Funny Car (1984), and the first 270 MPH and 300 MPH runs in Top Fuel (1986 and 1992). In about 1974, it began being called Gainesville Raceway (instead of Gainesville Dragway).
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CLICK HERE to see Diamond P TV broadcast of Gatornationals at Gainesville, 1985, 45:27 minutes
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1976
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1995 aerial view of Gainesville Raceway
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Gainesville Raceway, 1993 topo map
Aerial view of Gainesville Dragway in 1969. Photo published in Orlando Sentinel, June 3, 1969

Golden Triangle Drag Strip/Twin City Dragway (Oldsmar)

 
This track was in a rural outback area, literally a swamp, of northwest Hillsborough County in the vicinity of Oldsmar. Jim Kaylor, one of the original owners, talked a farmer into putting a drag strip into the middle of his cow pasture. Kaylor started the strip in partnership with Joe Livesay and Charles Diez, Jr.  Although they hoped to open the strip by December 10, its first race was held on January 1, 1959.. Ed Pantley took top eliminator honors in his Chevy-engined B dragster with a speed of 131.68 MPH. Pantley was a frequent winner in the strip's opening year. They weren't able to open on the following Sunday because the track was being resurfaced. This may have been indicative of the nature of the swampy ground that they built on. Or they may have been extending the length of the paved portion of the mile-long strip, of which 2,800 feet was paved. But the track again closed for seven weeks just before Easter for more resurfacing work. The official grand opening of the strip was held on January 18, 1959. Over 140 cars competed. Races were conducted by the Blockbusters car club of Clearwater. The racing strip was banked on both sides so that spectators could look down on the race track. William Frazier from Sebring, Florida, was making a run on May 24, the day the track re-opened, in his B dragster when his car went out of control after turning 142 MPH. He overturned at the end of the track and was killed. This was doubly unfortunate as tech officials had deemed his front end unsafe, but acquiesced to Frazier's complaints and let him run against their better judgment. Afterwards the drag strip decided that in the future dragsters would only be permitted to run 1/8th of a mile. This was one of probably  two deaths that occurred at this track, according to the memory of one of the starting line flaggers . A teenage girl was killed when a dragster driven by Jan Ruble crashed through a fence into a parked car in 1964. The track held a 2-day race over the Labor Day holiday ni 1959. Ed Garlits had the fastest speed of 114 MPH on the opening day, but a blown clutch kept him out of the top eliminator competition on Labor Day. Ed Pantley won in his A dragster.. Don Garlits ran at Golden Triangle  because it was close to where he lived, not necessarily because he favored the strip. Driving for Garlits, Art Malone set a world record for 1/8th-mile on November 1, 1959, with a clocking of 139.36 MPH in 5.43 seconds. Two months later, Malone upped his world mark again at Golden Triangle at the Florida Mid-Winter Championships with a speed of 142.85 MPH. On February 7, 1960, Malone beat Chris Karamesines in a match race while Ed Garlits took top eliminator in beating Connie Kalitta. Garlits was making a run at Golden Triangle in 1961 when his engine blew up during a 185 MPH run and he suffered burns on his face and hands.  In 1964, Leroy Gonzalez took over the track, pumping in money for repairs and improvements including a new 2-story timing tower and paving the pits and entrance roads. He ran it, initially under AHRA sanction, until 1970 when Bob Scadron operated the strip, running initially under NAAR sanction, through at least 1975. There are some sources that say the track ran through 1978, but research in newspapers by DSL could not confirm that. More research is needed to find out when the strip closed. Don Garlits used the strip for testing purposes in the 1960s.
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This ​ 1969 aerial view shows the staging area butting up to South Mobley Road, the track running in a north to south direction
1959
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August 22, 1964
Art Malone sets a new world 1/8th-mile record at Golden Triangle Drag Strip in 1959. Photo published in ​Tampa Bay Times, Nov. 3, 1959
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Don Garlits sees Art Malone off to set a new world 1/8th-mile record at Golden Triangle Drag Strip in 1959. Photo published in ​​Tampa Bay Times, Nov. 3, 1959

Homestead Air Force Base

 
The Ramblers' Road Club of Miami, organized for about a year and affiliated with the NHRA, held a race on the base's main runway on May 16, 1954. They scheduled its first annual charity drag race on the base landing strip on May 30. They were going to have thirty classes. They held a race on August 1. A drag race meet was scheduled for this air base near Miami on November 6-7, 1954.  An article in the Miami News (8/23/54) stated that the Ramblers sponsored drag races at Homestead "every Sunday" in 1954. RKO Pictures featured the club in a short film called "Hot Rod Galahads" in 1954. There is great footage in the film of  a drag race event, which may have been at Homestead. Although one online source dates the first drag races at Homestead to 1952, DSL could find no documentation to confirm that.
CLICK HERE to see the 1954 RKO short movie called "Hot Rod Galahads," 7:59 minutes
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Immokalee Airport

 
Naples police officer Bill Beattie, who was also president of the Southwest Florida Timing Association, obtained tentative permission from the Collier County commissioners to use the taxiway at the airport for drag racing in July 1976. But it took a year before all the stipulations requested by the commissioners could be resolved, including getting FAA approval. The first race was held on Sunday, June 5, 1976. It was sponsored by the Collier County Fraternal Order of Police and the Southwest Florida Timing Association. Admission  was $3 to watch and $5 to race. The plan was to hold races every other Sunday. The inaugural race attracted about 30 racers and more than an equal number of spectator cars. Rain halted the race before the final eliminations. Gas, modified, and stock classes were represented. Trophies and cash prizes were awarded at the race held on June 19. Although the plan was for races to be held on alternating Sundays, that didn't happen at the start. Other races were  held on July 10 and August 7. They obtained $2,000 worth of new timing equipment to be used at the races on Labor Day. In the ten weeks of racing, the track grossed $13,700. However the timing association was told by the FAA that they could not shut down the airport three times a month to hold their races. An alternative was proposed that the county build a drag strip north of the airport, but the commissioners balked at the $110,000 price tag. Instead, they said they might be willing to lease the land to the timing association if it wanted to build the strip. With this development, racing concluded after just a single year at the airport.
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Jacksonville Dragway/Jax Raceways

 
A 1/8th-mile drag strip was a part of a racing complex that included a dirt oval and a kart track.  The first documentation that DSL found was a report of a drag racing death at a private drag strip near Jacksonville in May 1960. Although the article did not name the strip, it was probably this dragway.  It is possible that the strip may have opened for racing in the late 1950s.  On November 6, 1960, Jack Patrick set the track record in his "Bad News" dragster with a 9.1 second clocking at 158 MPH. The December 1970 issue of Hot Rod  listed Jacksonville Dragway as an NHRA-sanctioned track. In 1982 the Jacksonville Racing Association bought the 66-acre complex for $634,600, also acquiring an additional 50 acres in 1997 for $56,400.  Jax Raceways owners Roger Godbee and Larry Browning sold the racing complex acreage in 2004 to a residential developer. At the present time (2017), the old drag strip and racing complex have not been redeveloped.
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1994 aerial view of Jacksonville Dragway
1972 (left) and 1988 (right) topo maps show changes in the racing complex at Jacksonville Dragway

Kay Larkin Airport (Palatka)

 
The Rebel Road Runners of Palatka and the North Florida Roadster Club of Jacksonville co-sponsored the South Eastern Championship Drag Races on July 3-4, 1954, at the Palatka airport. Information about this race appeared in a 1954 issue of Hot Rod Magazine, but more research is needed.
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Kissimmee Airfield

 
Opened in 1940, this U. S. Army Airfield, was a venue for some of Don Garlits' early runs. The Orlando Timing Association got permission to use a taxi strip at the Kissimmee Airfield in July 1955, but only for their members as they hadn't received insurance to permit the public to spectate. On November 27, 1955, the Central Florida Timing Association held a drag race. Dick Rolfing's '33 Ford Victoria was the fastest in his class and Charles Winslow had the meet's fastest speed on his Harley bike. With another race scheduled for December 11, races appear to have been held on a regular bi-weekly basis by 1955. In early 1956, they operated on a once-a-month schedule. In August 1956, the Kissimmee city council halted racing until the CFTA was properly incorporated and proved that they had the proper liability insurance. The CFTA complied and restarted the races. They held races on the first and third Sundays of the month beginning in about November 1956. On January 20, 1957, Don Garlits turned 134 MPH, then 144.888 MPH on February 3. They held a 2-day race on February 9-10. On the first day of the 2-day affair, Garlits turned 136.364 MPH. On November 3, 1957 Garlits set a new Florida state record when he ran a 9.95 second quarter and a then-personal best speed of 156.522 MPH. In December 1957, he ran 167 MPH at the annual 2-day Florida championships put on by the CFTA. In May 1958 he ran 163.53 MPH at 9.87 seconds at Kissimmee, his "favorite" track in Florida. In summer 1958, he posted three runs under nine seconds at Kissimmee, the first time in drag racing history that someone had cracked the nine second barrier three consecutive times. On December 7, 1958 he ran 174.75 MPH, the then-fastest speed on an asphalt strip. His ET was 8.78 seconds. The Central Florida Timing Association conducted races on the first Sunday of every month in 1959 and the first and third Sunday in 1960-61. It was sanctioned by NHRA during those years. On February 5, 1961, Art Malone set a new strip record with a run of 178.398 MPH, but in so doing, blew his engine. The city commission halted racing at the airport in 1962.
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1958
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This Crosley was one of the entries at the 2-day Southern Regional drags at Kissimmee Airfield in Feb. 1957. Photo published in Orlando Sentinel, Feb. 17, 1957

Lake City Municipal Airport

 
Don Garlits garnered his first win at an NHRA-sponsored Safety Safari drag racing event at the airport strip at Lake City in 1955. He took Top Eliminator, recording 12.1 seconds at 108.17 MPH, the fastest run of his life.  Ora Cook, driving his Mercury-engined dragster,  took the 1956 Florida championships held at Lake City on July 4, 1956. The airport was built by the Navy during World War II, then conveyed to the city of Lake City after the war.
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Lake Wales Municipal Airport

 
Don Garlits cut his teeth drag racing on the airport runway strip at Lake Wales, the closest racing strip to his home. He began racing there in 1952, but had his first major victory there, winning top eliminator in a 1955 meet against the Norton Brothers and Charlie "King" Hogan.  Opened in 1928 as a civil airport, it was leased in 1943 for use as an auxiliary airfield by the U. S. Army Air Force. The Army built two 4,000 foot runways, which were returned to civilian control in 1945. A race held on September 19, 1954, was sponsored by the Tach Twirlers car club. The Triangle Timing Association conducted races in 1959-60 on the second Sunday of the month. In 1959, the track record was 10.3 seconds. The timing association offered a cash award on Labor Day 1959 to anyone who could break that record. They called the race "The Little Big Go."
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Flagman Willard Graves jumps high in the air to start a car at Lake Wale Airport on Labor Day 1959. Photo published in Orlando Sentinel, Sep. 9, 1959

Lakeland International Raceway/Drag Strip

  • Years of Operation: 1971-present
 
Incorporation papers were filed by C. W. "Dub" Palmore, the owner, for Lakeland International Raceway, the track's first name, on October 19, 1970. The track, located four miles north of Lakeland, was also variously called Lakeland International Dragway or Lakeland Dragway. The strip operated as a quarter-mile track at first, but when its shutdown area land was sold for industrial development after a few years, it shortened to a 1/8th-mile drag strip in 1980.  The track operates as an IHRA-sanctioned 1/8th-mile track today. It was called Stingray Dragway for a few years recently, but is back to its old Lakeland Drag Strip name now. The first racing was scheduled for February 27, 1971.  IHRA held its 1971 World Finals on October 1-3. Art Arfons went 293 MPH in his jet dragster. Top Fuel was won by Hart-Cambell from Kentudky, Richard Tharp won funny car, and Don Carlton won Super Stock. IHRA held its first Winter Championship race at Lakeland in 1972. The three-day race drew a capacity crowd despite being marred by rain and forced to finish the race on Monday night. Richard Tharp took the funny car title in the "Blue Max." The IHRA Winter Nationals returned to stage it again in 1973 on March 2-4. Pat Foster, driving the Barry Setzer Vega, beat Ron O'Donnell to take the funny car title with a 6.63 ET. Don Carlton took Pro Stock in his "Mopar Missile." On October 12-14, 1973, IHRA staged the Nationals, its season finals, at Lakeland. The IHRA Winter Nationals returned to Lakeland again in 1974. In May 1974, Jerry Gwynn was the low qualifier and Don Teague was second low qualifier in the Funny Car Spectacular show. Mike Evegens turned 248 MPH in his jet dragster and Richard Hutchins made some exhibition runs in his wheelstanding "Chevy Rebellion" truck. The Coca Cola Cavalcade of Funny Cars event was held on June 16, 1974. In 1976, the Professional Racers Organization headed by Don Garlits, held its "Nationals '76" race at Lakeland on November 12-14. In 1976, IHRA held its Winter Nationals at Miami-Hollywood Speedway Park, but opened its racing season with a 2-day Winter Classic at Lakeland on February 21-22. Roy Spiker and Chris Mueller co-owned the strip in the 1990s. Spiker, who owned the strip in 2007, was in negotiations to sell the strip to a Chicago-based development group, but the deal fell through and he resumed a racing program.
CLICK HERE to see nostalgia drag race at Lakeland, 2011, 16:37 minutes
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1971
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1994 aerial view of Lakeland Drag Strip

MacDill Air Force Base

  • Years of Operation: 1953-56
  • Status:  5
 
Located four miles southwest of Tampa, the air base began holding an annual drag race in 1953. It was a part of its "safe wheels" program. A On August 21, 1955, the MacDill Timing Association conducted a race seen by 3,000 spectators. Milton Bryan clocked 11.80 seconds in his Lincoln V12 for the fastest time among 250 entries. The race was so successful that it was decided to hold a race about every six weeks.  A drag race was held October 9 that drew 6,000 spectators to watch 142 racers. Races were again run on November 20. Starting in 1956, the drag race was held onJanuary 22. Three thousand people saw Dennis Hess set a new meet record speed of 113 MPH on his motorcycle. Don Garlits turned 112 MPH in 12.5 seconds. On April 15, Garlits won the dragster class with a 11.51 ET and also won the Modified Coupe class (over 300 cubic inches) in a '39 Ford. At the race on June 24, Garlits was again the fastest with an ET of 11.73 at 109.83 MPH. MacDill, located near Tampa, was a convenient venue for Garlits.
 
 
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Don Garlits had the fastest time for dragsters at MacDill on January 22, 1956. He turned 112 MPH in 12.50 seconds. Photo published in Tampa Times, Jan. 26, 1956

Malone Dragway/Tri-State Drag Strip

 
Located five miles north of Bascom, this track was located on an old WWII airplane landing strip, three miles east of Malone on State Highway 2. It had been designated as Auxiliary Airfield #3 for Marianna Air Force Base during the war. It was also called Bascom Field. It is not certain when races first took place, but one early race was held on February 11, 1962. The name of the track was either called Tri-State Drag Strip or Malone Drag Strip since its opening. A race was held on June 16, 1963. They charged $1 admission for weekly racing on Sunday. On July 14, 1963, R. E. Reynolds won the Super Stock class. On November 17, 1963, over 200 racers competed for over $1,500 in cash and merchandise at the first annual North Florida Championship Drags. Bill Glandt was the race spokesman. Dave Youngman was one of the promoters in 1965.
 
 
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June 16, 1963
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Master Airfield ​(Miami)

 
The South Florida Timing Association conducted races on the first and third Sunday. Drag races may have been held here as early as 1958, for certain, sports car races were held that early. Don Gist took the Little Eliminator win on November 13, 1960, at the SFTA's NHRA event. He turned 103.010 MPH in his fuel-injected Corvette.  The Ramblers Road Club of Miami held a 2-day race called the Grand International Fuel and Gas Drag Meet on April 29-30, 1961. An estimated 10,000 people watched racers compete from at least 18 different states. Art Malone was clocked at 186 MPH for the event's top speed. Proceeds from the race were donated to Zane Johnson's Girls Town, a planned South Florida school for underprivileged girls. The 1962 season opened on January 7. On February 10-11, 1962, about 200 entries competed at the Eastern Winter National Drag Race event which was sanctioned by NHRA. Paul Johnson from Ohio took top eliminator and Don Gist won Mr. Stock Eliminator for the second year in a row. In March 1962, racing was halted at Master Field because the Dade County School Board took over the site. The SFTA switched the racing to the Amelia Earhart Field. On August 19, 1962, racing resumed at Master Field. The seventh annual Florida State drag championships were slated to be held on November 18, 1962, but had to changed to the Valkaria Airport because the Master Field base was taken over as a miltary installation the week prior to the scheduled race. The fourth Winter National Championship Drag Races were held on February 15-17, 1963. Newspapers only periodically reported the races. There was a race on October 13, 1963. The SFTA ran its 8th annual Charity Drag Race on December 14, 1963. The 5th annual Go South Winter National Championships drew over 300 racers on February 15-16, 1964. The last documentation that DSL found was for a race on November 15, 1964. Don Garlits attended that race and turned a very-fast 200.08 MPH. It is not known if Master Field held more races after that. Although it was listed as one of 325 U.S. drag strips in 1968 in an issue of the Swedish magazine Start & Strip, there is no documentation to warrant this later date . This airfield dates back to the early 1930s and was also known as South Field. It was adjacent to and east of Amelia Earhart Field, which was smaller and also hosted drag races. Master Field was used by the Navy until 1959 when they closed it for military use. In the early 1960s, the large airport began being redeveloped as the North Campus of Miami-Dade Community College.
 
 
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August 19, 1962
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Walt Arfons drove the "Green Monster" at Master Field at the Grand International Fuel and Gas Races in 1961. Photo published in the ​​​Miami News, Apr. 30, 1961
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1963
Don Garlits deploys his parachute after turning 200.08 MPH with a 7.72 ET on Nov. 15, 1964, at Master Field. Photo published in the ​​Miami News, Nov. 16, 1964

Miami "Drag Strip"

  • Years of Operation: 1953
  • Status:  Exact location unknown
 
Police blocked off a city street to hold drag races under their supervision and sanction. Races were held every other Sunday starting in June 1953. The races were conducted by the Ramblers Road Club of Miami.
 
 
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Miami-Hollywood Speedway Park (Pembroke Pines)

 
The Miami-Hollywood Motorsports Park racing complex opened in March 1966. It was comprised of a quarter mile drag strip and oval track. The drag strip portion held its firs race on November 27, 1966. It went through a number of name changes during its history including Miami Speedway, Miami Speedway Park, Miami Dragway, Miami-Hollywood Speedway, and others. It was sanctioned by NHRA (beginning in 1968) and IHRA at different times. Norman W. Johnson managed the track in 1968.  On November 1, 1974, Emmett Cline, a spectator, drove his car onto the track and sped down the track the wrong way at 90 MPH, crashed through a retaining wall, and plowed into a group of spectators, killing a 12-year-old boy and injuring three others. In 1975 and 1976, the IHRA Winternationals was held here. Encroaching housing spelled the demise of the race track, which held its final race on December 12, 1992. The housing subdivision of Pembroke now sits on the site of the former drag strip.
 
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May 27, 1967
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May 17, 1969
1994 aerial view of Miami-Hollywood Speedway Park
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Miami-Hollywood Speedway's final race, Dec. 12, 1992, 6:04 minutes
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Miami-Hollywood Speedway IHRA racing event, 1975, 3:23 minutes, no sound

Naples "Drag Strip"

  • Years of Operation:   1976
 
In an experiment to try to curb illegal street racing, vandalism, and promote better relations between teenagers and police, Westview Drive in an industrial area was closed by the police to hold a supervised drag race. It was held on Sunday, April 11, 1976. Ten area businessmen also supported the event that attracted almost 300 racers.  With this interest, officer Bill Beattie spearheaded an effort to obtain nearby Immokalee Airport as a place to hold regular supervised races. It took a year of work, but races were finally permitted at the airport in mid-1977 (see above).
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1995 aerial view of Westview Frive in Naples

Okaloosa Drag Strip (Baker)

 
Wayne Reeves of Baker had long been interested in racing and dreamed of building a drag strip in Okaloosa County. Land was availabe, but not at a price that he could afford. He approached his father and brother for help. They set a plan in motion. His brother, Johnny Reeves, began talking to businessmen throughout the county in early 1966. They pooled the money from twenty investors/stock holders to purchase an 80-acre field between Baker and Galliver on which to build a half-mile long asphalt strip.  It was located on Galliver Cutoff southwest of Baker, ten miles west of Crestview.  Wayne  filed incorporation papers with the state on August 18, 1966 for Okaloosa Drag Strip Inc. Construction started in October. He anticipated that the strip would be ready for racing by January 1, 1967, and that they would secure NHRA sanction. They were able to buy the most up-to-date timing equipment, lights for night racing, and seating for 1,000 spectators. Four shakedown races were held prior to the grand opening on April 9, 1967. On June 24, 1967, they featured what was billed as "the South's first wheelie match race."  Joe Vanni's "Bardahl Bug" was pitted against J. C. Sizemore's "Baby Golden Rod" wheelstander. In 1972, it was sanctioned by the IHRA. In 1971, 1972, and 1975, Fred Sibley made exhibition runs with his jet dragster. Newspaper articles in 1975-77 called it Baker Drag Strip, which may or may not reflect a change in the strip's name. It is not known exactly when the strip shut down. The old track is today's Piper Lane.  
 
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April 22, 1967
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Two cars test out the new strip in 1967. Photo published in ​​​​​​Pensacola News Journal, Apr. 9, 1967
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1994 aerial view of Okaloosa Drag Strip
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Osceola Drag Strip (Geneva)

 
This airfield was built in 1943 as an auxiliary gunnery field for Sanford Naval Air Station, located to the west. The airfield consisted of four paved 4,100' runways and taxiways. It was declared surplus after the war. The earliest documentation that DSL found was a classified newspaper ads promoting a night drag race on April 8, 1961. The races were conducted by the Seminole Timing Association (STA), with trophies being awarded to winners in all classes. The STA was formed in fall 1960. They held the first daytime drag race on Sunday, April 30, 1961. Over 400 people watched 70 racers compete. Bub Klingler copped both top and middle eliminator, with J. G. Wham taking little eliminator and Charlie Cowart winning stock eliminator in his '61 Chevy. By at least November 1962, the strip was running in day time on the first and third Sundays and on the second and fourth Saturday nights of each month. Races were upheld in late 1962 and early 1963 until the STA was able to sign a lease with the Seminole county commissioners. On February 5, 1965, Hubert Platt set a new track record for factory experimental stock cars with a 10.31 ET. This broke the old record set by Phil Bonner of 10.34. On December 11, 1965, Pete Robinson set a new track record in his AA/FD with a 7.62 second ET. Three thousand fans braved cold weather on January 30, 1966, to see some top-flight racing among the 160 entries. On hand were Ronnie Sox, Dickie Harrell, Pete Seaton, and Hubert Platt. On Monday and Tuesday, February 21-22, 1966, Osceola conducted a pre-Winter National Drag Races that attracted such racers as Pee Wee Wallace, Shirl Greer, Steve Bagwell, and Bill Jacobson.   Sonny Hartley recalled, “When I was in high school in the early 1960s, drag races were held on the old airstrip every other Saturday night. That was from about 1961-67."  Jay Feener went to the races at this old airfield strip in 1962. He remembered driving several miles through orange groves to get to it and that the timing tower sat on four upraised telephone poles. The strip ran under NHRA sanction in 1967, if not before, on every second and fourth Saturday night and every fifth Sunday.  It was listed as one of 325 U.S. drag strips in 1968 in an issue of the Swedish magazine Start & Strip . The lease seems to have run out for the STA in 1967 or 1968. The county did not renew the lease. The site of the old airfield is now the site of the county landfill.
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The first documentation that DSL found was this classified ad promoting a race on April 8, 1961
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Palm Beach International Raceway (Jupiter)

  • Years of Operation: 1965-present
 
This racing complex near Jupiter, built at a cost of $1.5 million, comprises a 2-mile road course, kart track, and concrete-surface drag strip. Ed and Joe Buchek, father and son, developed the track. The track was initially operated by a few car clubs that joined together to form the Gulf Coast Timing Association. Research hasn't found the exact opening date of the drag strip, but the first big drag race was a 2-day affair called "Big Go East" held on February 6-7, 1965. An AHRA-sanctioned event (according to one newspaper report), rain washed out the race, which was reset for February 20-21.  That rescheduled race was washed out, too. They tried to hold it again on February 27-28, and this time, they got the race in, but the field of racers had been watered down considerably. Paul Shapiro took top eliminator in his rear-engined dragster with an 8.71 ET.  Bob Hamilton of Tampa got the meet's top speed  with 178.21 MPH. Another race was held on April 11, 1965. On either May 8 or May 9, 1965, Don Chason turned the fastest time in his AA/FD with a clocking of 173 MPH in 8.812 seconds. At a race held on Saturday night, July 9, 1966, the fastest run of the night was made by the Ballentine Brothers of Fort Myers who clocked 140.81 MPH. Faced with foreclosure in 1968, the Bucheks sold the track to attorneys Amos and Michael Jackson and Dave Rupp, a used car salesman. Jack Crozier, who drove Ollie Olsen's Willys, was the track announcer when Rupp owned the track. One of the first major drag racing events held at the track was a 3-day event held on April 16-18, 1971. Almost $100,000 in cash and contingency money was posted for the AHRA Grand American Series of Professional Drag Racing Championships. Almost forty top fuel drivers competed including Don Garlits, Steve Carbone, Chris Karamesines, Jim Nicoll, Bill Tidwell, John Wiebe, Jimmy King, and Don Cook. In 1981 the track changed owners and its name to Moroso Motorsports Park. The Super Chevy Show events were very popular in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2008, the racing facility was purchased by a group of local motorsports enthusiasts, who restored the original name. They greatly improved the track surface. Today the drag strip is sanctioned by IHRA.
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This advertisement promoted PBIR's first race, "Big Go East," , which was rescheduled twice because of rain
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April 11, 1965
CLICK HERE to see video footage of PBIR nostalgia racing event, 2008, 2:45 minutes
1984 topo map of Palm Beach International Raceway
1994 aerial view of Palm Beach International Raceway
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This aerial view of PBIR was taken on its third try to hold its big opening race, Big Go East, after the first two scheduled race-dates were rained out. Photo published in Palm Beach Post, Mar. 7, 1965

Panama City "Drag Strip"

  • Years of Operation: 1954
  • Status:  Exact location unknown
 
On July 4, 1954, the Panama City Motor Club staged drag races on a highway in back of the State Highway Patrol station. In the early 1950s, the Highway Patrol office was just east of the Hathaway Bridge on Highway 93. More research is needed.
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Panama City Beaches Speedway

 
This old 3/8th-mile paved oval speedway, that opened in 1969, held drag races on Saturday night, April 16 1977. It was open only to street-legal cars. Trophies and cash were awarded to winners. Drag races were held each week through early June.  On Saturday night, May 7, 1977, John Emmi took first place in his '72 Javelin in the one-on-one drag races by beating Mike Arena in his '66 GTO. The speedway was located on 1801 Allison Avenue. The site of the old speedway is now a housing development and mobile home park.
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1977
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The western half of the old speedway is still visible in this 1994 aerial view, but the eastern half had been demolished by the development of the mobilt home park
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Panama City Beaches Speedway, 1984 topo map

Pensacola Drag Strip (Klondike Road)

 
In 1956, land located southwest of the intersection of Klondike Road and Detroit Boulevard was leased from Fred L. Vannoy on which to build a 1/8th-mile drag strip. Members of the Northwest Florida Timing Association had formed the Pensacola Drag Strip, Inc. to build the strip. Bill Creel was the president and treasurer of the board of directors of the corporation. Stock was sold to raise $30,000 to construct the strip. Incorporation papers were filed for Pensacola Drag Strip, Inc. on January 7, 1957. The total length of the 60-foot wide strip was one-half mile. The first quarter-mile section was asphalt paved and the last quarter-mile section was asphalt treated. It ran in a northeast to southwest direction. The first race was held on Sunday, February 10, 1957. Races were then held weekly on Sundays. Although it was initially called Pensacola Drag Strip in early newspaper ads, racers called it Klondike Dragway. Five hundred people attended the race on April 7, 1957, to see 75 racers. Bill Powell of Mobile took top honors on his Triumph motorcycle. In 1959, they built an adjacent go-kart road race track that offered night races beginning in 1960. They advertised it as "putt-nik kart racing." On Saturday, July 30, 1960, they held the first lighted night drag race. On Sunday, June 11, 1961, the strip staged what they called the first annual Fiesta of Five Flags championship drag races. That event offered racing in 43 different classes. Bill Aydelott took the $50 top eliminator win in his dragster with a run of 4.9 seconds. 85 entries competed in 28 classes. Jan Cardwell, Miss Pensacola Drag Strip of 1961, awarded the trophies and prize monies. In 1962, they tried different approaches like a twist contest to attract fans. The Fiesta championship races in 1962 was a three-day event. In 1963, the track featured Hubert Platt driving Don Nicholson's 409 Chevy at a two-day event on March 2-3. Phil Bonner also was featured that year and Don Nicholson gave some exhibition runs on April 6. They also began giving out participation trophies to all drivers that year. They were doing all they could in 1963 to attract racers and spectators. At the 1963 Fiesta championship races, racers such as Don Nicholson, Hubert Platt, Phil Carrol, and Al Hodges participated. On August 17-18, 1963, they staged a 2-day Pensacola Invitational event. On April 26 and May 17, 1964, Don Garlits made some exhibition runs.  W. L. Vickrey won the Super Stock class with his '64 Dodge at the 1964 3-day Fiesta championships. More than 1,200 fans watched the final day of racing with 130 racers competing.  It was being called Pensacola Drag Raceway a few years later when incorporation papers were filed on August 26, 1966. The racing distance was timed for 1250 feet. On Saturday, September 17, 1966, Buck Smith's "Quarterbender" B/S beat Ted Walker's "Would You Believe" GTO in a featured grudge match race. Racing switched to Sundays in October. There were over 75 cars competing on October 2. On Sunday, October 9, 1966, Buck Smith's "Quarterbender" raced Ken Simpson's A/S Chevy II in a best three-of-five match race. Kenny , who raced here in the late 1960s, recalled one memorable moment: "E.J. Potter, 'The Michigan Madman' riding a Harley with a Chevy V-8 mounted on it, didn't shut down right and went thru the sand bed and 4-foot tall pine trees that was at the end of the strip. He went so far into the trees that it took two wreckers, one hooked to the other, to pull the bike out. A lot of memories there." It was listed in the February 1968 issue of Hot Rod as being under NHRA sanction. J. R. Mills managed the track that year. It opened that year on the first Saturday night in April.
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1957
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July 30, 1960
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September 22, 1962
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April 6, 1963
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1994 aerial view of Pensacola Dragway
July 5-6, 1963
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1978 topo map of Pensacola Dragway
1965

Powerhouse Drag Strip/Breakaway Dragway ​​(Fountain)

 
This 1/8th-mile concrete and asphalt strip opened in about late August 1991 for drag racing. Located north of Panama City, it was reached by taking State Highway 231 north to Highway 167 in Calhoun County, then Highway 274 for less than a mile to Apalache Road, then south. It is located a few miles east of Fountain. It was sanctioned by NHRA at least by 1992. It was an IHRA sanctioned track beginning in 1995. Races were held through the 2000 season, but documentation could not be found for racing after that until the track changed its name to Breakaway Dragway in 2005. The track apparently ceased racing in about 2013.
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March 1992
CLICK HERE to see video footage of racing at Breakaway Dragway, 2013, 29:15 minutes
1999 aerial view of Powerhouse Drag Strip

Prospect Field ​(Fort Lauderdale)

 
Drag races were held on the old WWII airfield, which was named West Prospect Satellite Field in 1941. The Broward Auto Club "Drifters" got permission to hold races on the old north-south runway, holding their first race on February 12, 1956. They had arranged for insurance coverage through NHRA. The city's hand was forced to allow racing after a 17-year-old boy was killed in a fatal accident on the airfield during an illegal race. In June 1956, a city official became concerned about the insurance risk to the city. The Broward auto club had been carrying $300,000 worth of insurance coverage, but the city official thought that amount was insufficient. The CAA had ordered a halt to the racing in June after a complaint had been lodged by a pilot about wooden posts that the club had erected on the edge of the north-south runway. The club had not realized that the posts were a hazard, but removed them immediately after being so informed.  The club had been using the field for the previous six months, since mid-February 1956. They had used it responsibly, paying for police, fire, and ambulance protection out of gate receipts. These factors must have weighed in its favor as the club was permitted to continue racing into 1957. When the contract to permit the Broward Club to hold races at Prospect Field expired on August 1, 1957, racing halted and the Broward club had to go to Amelia Earhart Field in Miami to race. They went there until 1959, when they got the OK to hold races at Davie's Forman Field. The Pabst-Gatti & Windish "Railbird" dragster held the track reecord with 136.44 MPH in 1956. That stood until Don Garlits set a new track record on March 31, 1957, with a run of 144.00 MPH to win the Florida State trophy. The airport is today's Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
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The opening day of supervised drag racing at Prospect Field is seen in this photo. Photo published in Fort Lauderdale News, Feb. 13, 1956

Punta Gorda Airport

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Drag races were held at least as early as 1956, with a race being held on March 11, 1956. The Rod Rattlers sponsored and conducted the race. They expected about sixty entries.  Ora Cook was expected to run with his Olds-engined dragster and C. M. Cook was expected with his flathead Ford-engined dragster. The Jaycees sought permission to hold drag races from the Charlotte County Commission in 1961, but were denied.
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March 11, 1956

St. Lucie Airport "Drag Strip"

 
In August 1952, St. Lucie County commissioners granted permission for single-car only drag strip use of the taxi-strip on the edge of St. Lucie airport for timed drag racing runs. There were 24 entries in the first drag race, held on September 28, 1952.  Races were conducted and sanctioned by car clubs from the Florida cities of Fort Pierce, Vero Beach, and Melbourne. They comprised the Tri-County Timing Association. Cars were permitted to take flying or standing starts on the measured quarter mile.  In 1954, the Timing Association changed its name to the Junior Safety Council. In 1956, the Florida Suncoast Timing Association had to cancel a race scheduled for October 28. They had not been able to get a judge to sign their charter which they needed to operate as a sanctioned NHRA track.
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Sebastian Municipal Airport

 
Built in 1943, it was known as Roseland Field. In 1959, the field was conveyed to the city of Sebastian for civilian use.  On March 9, 1959, the Sebastian city council granted permission for the Asphalt Angels car club of Fort Pierce to hold drag races on the runway. The city imposed several stipulations that the car club had to do in order to get to use the airport. The car club had to provide restroom facilities, improve the entranceway, and provide for parking. They also couldn't erect permanent buildings or seating . Two of the four runways were also always to remain open. The club sponsored the bi-weekly drag races at the Sebastian-Roseland Airport under NHRA sanction.   One of the first drag races at the airfield was held on May 17, 1959. They were held on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. By July 26, 1959, the date of a racing event, the field was being called Sebastian Municipal Airport. At that race, John McCain of Merritt Island got top time of the meet in his 1957 Corvette with 104.408 MPH. There were 65 racers in attendance. In August 1959, race dates had also switched to the first and third Sundays of the month . In January 1960, race dates had reverted back to the second and fourth Sundays. But racing halted, for some reason possibly related to liability insurance, in about October 1960.The next month, the Flying Rebels car club asked the Sebastian city council if they could use the airport for a drag strip. A city councilman suggested that they meet with the city clerk to get informed about the insurance requirements for obtaining a lease. Research has not uncovered any drag racing other than in 1959 and 1960.
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July 12, 1959
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1959
Two cars speed along the tarmac of the Sebastian-Roseland Airport. Photo published in ​​Orlando Sentinel, May 20, 1959
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Photo published in ​Orlando Sentinel, Oct 21, 1959

Sebring Airstrip

  • Years of Operation: 1956-60, 1991-97, 2016
  • Status:  5
 
Don Garlits stated that he raced in several drag races at the air strip at Sebring in about 1956. Research in newspapers by DSL seems to suggest that racing may have started in 1957, although it could have been 1956 like Garlits recalled. In May 1957, the Triangle Timing Association signed on as co-sponsors of, what newspapers said, was a "new" drag strip at Sebring. A 3-day NHRA meet, called the Southeastern Championships, drawing from seven states, was held on June 21-23, 1957. It was sponsored by the South Florida Timing Association and the Sebring Firemen. There were about 100 racers competing. Ora Cook took top eliminator in his Chrysler-powered B dragster with an ET of 11.03 and speed of 121.25 MPH. A second 7-states regional NHRA race was held on June 20-22, 1958, but rain spoiled the event. The final eliminations were moved to Amelia Earhart Field in Miami on June 29. The third annual NHRA Southeastern Championships were held on May 29-31, 1959. Don Garlits won the Bill Frazier Trophy (named after a Sebring dragster driver who was killed two weeks before at Golden Triangle Dragway) for taking the top eliminator title  with a time of 9.931 seconds at 152.28 MPH. Ed Pantley of Tampa was the runner-up to Garlits. In 1960, the NHRA Southeastern Regionals were held on May 28-30. For the first time in the annual event, Saturday and Sunday races were held at night under the lights. Ollie Olsen had the meet's top speed with 151 MPH, but Lewis Carden won top eliminator in his B dragster. In doing so, he also set a new national record with a 9.378 ET at 143.887 MPH. For four consecutive years (1957-60), NHRA held an annual regional race at Sebring. A road racing course was established on the old World War II U. S. Army Airfield for the first sports car race in 1950. In August 1991, the Central Florida Performance Association re-established drag races at Sebring. Things started poorly however when failed lighting equipment forced them to refund tickets for 3,000 people. After a year to sort things out, the CFPA held their next race on July 25, 1992, starting a weekly program sanctioned by IHRA that would run through 1997. Drag races were conducted frequently at Sebring International Raceway in 2016.
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November 20, 1993
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Seminole Dragway (Tallahassee)

 
The Seminole Dragway was established on the east-west runway of Dale Mabry Field. That airport was the municipal airport of Tallahassee from 1928 until it closed in 1961. Most online and published sources date the opening of Seminole Dragway to the mid-1960s, but there is good documentation to support 1962 as the opening year. Jack Patrick and Henry Trammell rented the airport from the city, paying $100 each week that races were held and $25 on non-race weeks. The opening race was held on April 15, 1962, with 3,000 people in attendance. Louis Carden took top eliminator honors in his A dragster. He collected $150 for winning, but sustained damage to his dragster when he released his chute late and plowed through the barricade at the end of the shutdown area. According to Rick Bell , "Seminole Drag strip . . .  was run by Jack Patrick, a local speed shop owner, and a AA/D Dragster driver.” Bell raced at Seminole in the early years:  “One dragster, whose chute failed to open properly ran off of the end of the strip, jumped the road & crashed into a chain link fence. One weekend it rained severely in the morning but turned sunny by the afternoon so everybody showed up even though it had been called off. I raced the family car. I was 16 and in 10th grade. I left [Tallahassee] in June 1963 and the drag strip was still open.” On Sunday, May 20, 1962, Joe Beal's '62 Chevy won Super Stock and Stock eliminator honors at Seminole Dragway. It purportedly closed in the early 1970s, then reopened briefly at least twice. It was open in about 1976. Marvin Johnson owned the drag strip in 1978. The next year, Eddie Johnson, a cousin of owner Marvin Johnson, leased the raceway. Eddie planned on running weekly bracket racing with a guaranteed $500 purse each week split between three classes of racers. However a lease dispute between the cousins doomed the season's racing before it could even begin. It may have run briefly after that, but by at least the early 1980s, it closed for many years until 1997. In that year, Chuck Tamaski planned on opening it in October under NHRA sanction. He wanted to feature races on Friday and Saturday nights.  A 2011 newspaper article stated that the track shut down in 1967 when a spectator, J. D. Shores, was killed. However his obituary (Panama City News, August 7, 1967)  stated he was killed at Tallahassee Speedway, which was an oval track. In 2002, Charles Wimberly, owner of Triangle Engineering, wanted to repave and reopen Seminole Raceway. A hearing was held by the Leon County Commission and many residents expressed dissatisfaction with the idea. The proposal languished for about a year in bureaucratic red tape, but in the end, the old strip wasn't resurrected.
 
 
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July 1, 1962
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1966 topo map of the site of the Seminole Dragway, the east-west runway serving as the drag strip

Spruce Creek Airport ​(Samsula)

 
Night drag races, sponsored by NASCAR, were held at this airport on February 15-21, 1959. Periodically drag races were held on other dates at the airport in 1959, including July 12. Today it is a private airport in Port Orange, seven miles south of the central business district of Daytona Beach. NASCAR partnered with NHRA for the very first Winternationals, which was held (according to Don Garlits) at Spruce Creek on February 7-13, 1960. After a half year of sitting out of racing after his horrible crash, Don Garlits set up his fuel car to run gas and entered. He accumulated enough points in the week-long event to take the Top Gas eliminator. A detailed online source disputes Garlits's memory of the location of the event, stating that Flagler-Bunnell Airport, north of Daytona Beach, was the site of this first Winternationals. More research is called for to resolve this disparity. Drag races were held at the airport on Mother's Day and about monthly in 1960. The Daytona Beach Custom and Timing Association conducted races on the second and fourth Sundays of each month in 1961. In 1963, races were held on the first and third Sundays. Some sources called it the Spruce Creek Drag Strip. A week-long Winter Nationals, held in conjunction with Speed Week, but not sanctioned by NASCAR, was held at Spruce Creek nightly in 1963, 1964 and 1965. The airport repeated as the site of the NATAC Winter Nationals on February 24-26, 1966.  It was listed as one of 325 U.S. drag strips in 1968 in an issue of the Swedish magazine Start & Strip . The airport strip was sanctioned for the first time by NHRA in 1968, running just a couple of races before closing for good at that location.
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1968

Sunset Dragway (Panama City Beach)

 
This 1/4-mile strip was located on Thomas Drive, next to the Navy Mine Defense Laboratory. Owned by Sol Stewart and Bill Glandt, the track first began running by at least 1960. At a race held on July 3, 1960, Ed Garlits (brother of Don Garlits) beat the strip's reigning top eliminator Jim Burnett. On November 20, 1960, Jack Patrick of Tallahassee took top eliminator honors in his "Bad News" dragsterr. By and large, except for occasional gas class shows, they focused on super stock racing. Spectators were drawn to the Fords vs. Chevy battles. Dave Raulerson was the track manager. On February 12, 1961, a spectator was fatally injured when Kenneth Allen lost control of his race car and struck 57-year-old Huey Lee Brannon. In June 1962, they switched from Sunday racing to Saturday night racing. Generally the schedule was for Sunday racing during the winter on the first and third Sundays and weekly Saturday night racing during the hot months. On occasion, twist contests enlivened the track after races concluded. The drag strip reflected the prejudices inherent in the Deep South during the Sixties. On September 9, 1962, the strip held a segregated drag race. Advertisements stipulated that the race on that day was for "colored only." On May 18, 1963, Herman Moore, of Enterprise, Alabama, broke the track's super stock record with a run of 11.79 seconds. The track changed its name to Miracle Strip Speedway in 1968, but when Billy Jacobs and Jesse Childree bought the track in 1969, they renamed it Sunset Dragway. They booked in an energetic program of exhibition and feature cars in 1969 including top fuelers like Clayton Harris and lots of wheelstanders. In 1970, it started being called Sunset Drag Strip, but no information could be found after 1971. A newspaper article in January 1972 implies that the strip may have closed in 1971, possibly for safety reasons. Under the headline "Drag Strip to be Built," it reads: "The sport of drag racing is being revived here, but on a safety level, with cooperation from the highway patrol and county law enforcement officers. A drag strip sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association wil be built on U. S. 231 near the intersection with Highway 20." (Panama City News Herald, Jan. 25, 1972)  Research was unable to find if that new drag strip was ever built.
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1960
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September 1962
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Located just west of Thomas Drive, the road marked on this 1994 aerial photograph certainly looks like it might have been the site of the old Sunset Dragway
August 3, 1968

Sunshine Drag Strip/Showtime Dragstrip ​(Clearwater)

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  • Years of Operation:  1960-ca. 2004, 2007-present
 
This track began as a quarter-mile strip in 1960. It operated through at least the 1960s. In the January 1970 issue of Hot Rod, Sunshine Speedway was listed as a sanctioned NHRA track.On February 27-28, 1971, the track hosted the NAAR Winter Championship drag races. Legendary drag racer Art Malone owned the strip in the 1980s and 1990s. More research is needed to find out what year Sunshine closed. What happened was, the state of Florida bought the land the track was on to make a highway ramp. But they never got the funding for the project, so racing halted for a period of time. Preliminary research shows that the speedway oval adjacent to the strip suspended racing in 2004, so that is maybe when the drag strip closed. The track started operating again as Sunshine Drag Strip by 2007. But in 2012, a 1/8th-mile track called Showtime Dragstrip, owned by Robert Yoho began operating. The office and timing tower were renovated and new bathrooms built.  They also built new concrete walls extending the length of the 1/8th-mile strip. Apparently the old strip was able to run a quarter-mile because the starting line was back further than is presently the case at the new Showtime strip. Brian Lohnes has written about the Showtime Dragstrip:  "The course was basically created on a dead end city street. Originally run as a quarter mile facility, it is now an eighth mile strip and since it opened in 1960, the shutdown is actually 41st Street. Seriously. . . But wait. It gets better. 126th Avenue North actually CROSSES the drag strip at the finish line! For real. You can see tire tracks [on GoogleEarth] of a car coming up 126th and driving straight across the course. 126th must be a dirt road because that seems to be what it leaving the 'foot prints' on the traction compound treated asphalt. Want to get crazier? The end of the track is a steel gate. Why? Because about 50 feet past that is Ulmerton Rd, a busy thoroughfare. When fast cars run, the gate is open and someone apparently monitors traffic to make sure there isn’t complete and utter carnage down there." Although his writing makes for good copy, it might be best to actually visit the Showtime strip to see if, in fact, that's how it operates. Input from those who have raced or attended races at the track is invited.
September 27, 1963
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Sunshine Drag Strip, circa 1968, 4:23 minutes, no sound/music only
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Tallahassee Speedway Park/Raceway

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The track opened on May 7, 1967, first called Tallahassee Speedway Park. At the May 14 race, 2,000 spectators watched 119 racers compete. Herb Channell was the track president. Newspapers gave the location as being on Highway 20, "five miles southwest of the Capital Circle truck route." A 2-day grand opening was held on June 10-11, 1967. Over 200 racers competed for over $2,500 in cash, trophies, and contingency awards. In 1969, they ran races on Saturday nights until the winter cool months when they switched to Sunday days. Dave Youngman was the track owner from about 1969 through 1971, when he and his wife, Jacque, moved to Bithlo to manage Central Florida Dragway. It is not known what year the track actually shut down, but it certainly seemed to have petered out after the Youngmans left.
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1994 aerial view of Tallahassee Raceway
November 2, 1969
CLICK HERE to see video footage of the abandoned Tallahassee Raceway, 6:39 minutes

Tampa Dragway


Billy Herndon built and operated this strip. Its first race was held on October 1, 1961, with Jack Patrick taking top eliminator honors. It was sanctioned by NHRA when races were conducted by the Stickshifters in 1962. It is long gone, but where the track once was is now a Rooms-to-Go warehouse. It was located on the south side of today's I-4 freeway and Mango Road. One old timer recalled, "There used to be a little drag strip down the road a piece that was so cool. You could drive your car in and park it under the pine trees along the strip which was below you a bit as the place to park was on a small hill. The strip (Tampa Dragway) ended a bit abruptly with a little ramp like ending. One day a chute didn't open and it launched a rail job right across the road at the end like a dart. Guy wasn't scratched but what a sight. I'll never forget how pathetic that rail looked with dirt crammed in the blower." On December 2, 1967, Hayden Proffitt's Grant SST Rambler Rebel won a two-out-of-three match over Larry Arnold's "Penetration" Charger at the 1,200-foot dragway strip. Speeds were "guess-timated" at 171-mph. Daredevil motorcycle jumper Bob Gill jumped a then-world record fifteen cars at Tampa Dragway in 1972. Legal problems caused the track to close..
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1961
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April 21, 1963
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Art Malone (far lane) beat Don Garlits in a match race at Tampa Dragway on April 21, 1963. Photo published in ​Tampa Tribune, Apr. 22, 1963
This 1971 aerial photo shows the location of the old Tampa Dragway, on the site of what is a Rooms-to-Go warehouse

Thunderbolt Raceway (Orange Park)


Drag races were held on the northern east-west asphalt runway of Fleming Island Naval Outer Landing Field. This World War II era airfield was located ten miles north of Green Cove Springs on U. S. Highway 17.  Races were first held every Sunday, but later in 1961, changed to the first and third Sunday. The drag races were the brainchild of three men from Green Cove Springs:  Burch Stump, Ben Zeliner, and Ed Taylor.  A towering steel thunderbolt piercing the ground marked the entrance to the track  leading west from U.S. 17 into the woods. Many big-name racers ran at Thunderbolt including Don Garlits, Connie Kalitta, Chris Karamesines, Don Prudhomme, Art Arfons, and Pete Robinson. At one night-time race, Garlits took a wild ride into the brush after blowing his engine at the finish. He skidded on his oil and went backwards through a fence, into a field. The legacy of the old track remains, gracing the names of a recreational soccer park and an elementary school at the old site. Mike McInnis was eleven years old in 1965 when he begged his dad to take him to see his first drag race at Thunderbolt. He had heard an advertisement for an upcoming race on a Jacksonville radio station WAPE, the Big Ape. They were plugging a match race between Eddie Schartman and Shirl Greer. He recalled, "There were no guardrails as I recall, and the main lighting other than a few bare lightbulbs strung between poles in the 'pits' was an old Army surplus searchlight mounted on a trailer and directed down the track behind the starting line. I was in drag race paradise. Along with quite a large crowd, we were standing right at the edge of the designated dragstrip within probably 20 or 30 feet of the cars as they staged and blasted off into nitro nirvana. I have never been the same. The details of other things that happened that night are fuzzy, but I do remember being there. If memory serves me correctly, I think Greer beat Schartman two out of three." Another old timer recalled, "The track was backlit by two big WWII surplus searchlites, that would go from idle to full light when the cars staged. Starting was by a liberated traffic light hanging across the track, no Chrondek type tree." 
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1999 aerial view of the site of Thunderbolt Raceway on the old Fleming Island NOLF
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Titusville-Cocoa Airport


After the war, this airport, built in 1943, was deeded by the government to the cities of Titusville and Cocoa. It is now known as Space Coast Regional Airport, being the nearest commercial airport to the Kennedy Space Center. On August 14, 1956, the Titusville Channel Cats car club asked the Titusville city council if they could be permitted to use the airport for drag races. They wanted to hold races on the second Sunday of each month, to be conducted by the Central Florida Timing Association. The city council was not opposed, but wanted the city of Cocoa to also weigh in on the request. The Cocoa Drag Racers had already also requested use of the airport, so the Cocoa city council said the Channel Cats would need cooridinate the airport's use with them.  The first race held at the airport was held on August 18, 1957. Sanctioned by NASCAR, they planned on racing at the airport every first and third Sunday. Races were conducted by the Brevard Timing Association. On Labor Day, September 2, 1957, NASCAR drag races were held at the airport. Ronnie Kirkland took top eliminator over a field of sixty entries with a clocking of 123.04 MPH. In July 1959, a new 6-man board overseeing the airport discussed imposing strict regulations on the airport. Newspapers reported that drag races were likely to be discontinued. And they seem to have been--in 1959. But in 1960, drag races resumed. On January 31, 1960, the Throttle Masters Drag Club conducted a charity race, with all proceeds above expenses being donated to the March of Dimes. After a couple of races in 1960, the airport stopped allowing drag races.
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1960
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Tyndall Air Force Base


Located twelve miles east of Panama City, Florida, seventy cars raced at the base's first drag race in 1956. Col. Fred Gray, the base commander then, won the event in his 1956 Chevrolet in 15.70 seconds. A second annual event, to be conducted on runway 13, was scheduled for March 31, 1957. 
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Valkaria Airfield was located nine miles south of Melbourne.  On August 14, 1960, drag racers from three counties staged a drag racing exhibition in an effort to change public perception about drag racing. They were trying to get the Brevard county commission to change their minds about their desire to hold races at the old airfield. Their exhbition yielded good results. On September 30, 1960, the Shifters Hot Rod Club held a race. In November 1961, the county commission gave its blessing to the racing program. The first official race conducted by Motor Sports, Inc. was held on January 28, 1962. Races were held on every other Sunday in 1962. The seventh annual Florida State Drag Racing Championships were shifted from Master Field to Valkaria in 1962. What was called the first annual Melbourne Jaycees Southeast Championships were held on September 22, 1963. They awarded $1,500 in prize money and trophies to all class winners. At a race on July 17, 1964, $5,000 in prize money attracted racers from thirteen states. On September 18, 1966, the second annual Dixie Drag Festival was held at what newspapers called Valkaria Raceway. One of the featured exhibition cars was Walt Stevens driving the Piranha funny car. In August 1967, racing was discontinued after a 19-year-old man was killed by an oncoming race car. County commissioners passed a law prohibiting further racing. The Melbourne Jaycees signed a lease in 1968 to reopen the strip. They hoped to have it open by July 1969, but one unforeseen difficulty after another postponed it. Contract problems and other difficulties dragged on and on and nothing ever did happen, so the strip stayed closed. Old timers remembered some big-name racers running at Valkaria including Tommy Ivo, Don Garlits, and George Montgomery.
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Valkaria Dragway (Port Malabar)

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June 24, 1962
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December 13, 1964. Courtesy of Jerry Patterson
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An enthusiastic flagman leaps skyward to start two cars at Valkaria. Photo published in Orlando Sentinel, Aug. 16, 1960
The new management referred to in this 1965 newspaper ad was Roland Phillips
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Valkaria Dragway, in 1965, 1:45 minutes, no sound/music only

Venice Municipal Airport

 
On May 13, 1958, the Venice city council voted to permit the Vagabonds car club to conduct drag races once a month on the taxi strip at the airport. conducted drag races on the first Sunday at the old World War II era Army Air Force training field. After the war, the government transferred control to the City of Venice. The races were sanctioned by NHRA, being held on the north taxi strip. The first drag race at the old air base was held on July 27, 1958. Four thousand people turned out to see 113 entries compete, all members of the Vagabonds club. The Vagabonds conducted the races without a hitch. They breathed a sigh of relief as the city only allowed this first race on a conditional basis. The success of this first race allowed them to continue to hold races.
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A huge crowd attended the first official meet at Venice Airport. This photo shows the pit area (far left) and north taxi strip (right background) and spectators (center and left background). Photo published in Tampa Bay Times, July 30, 1958

Zephyrhills Airfield

 
Don Garlits and a few other racers from the Tampa-St. Petersburg area began racing on the old Army Auxiliary Air Strip owned by the city of Zephyrhills in June 1950. The Tampa Sports Car Club staged drag races numerous times in 1951-52, beginning with their first race on May 13. There were no timing clocks, just cars racing against each other. In 1952, the Pinellas Timing Association conducted the races every other Sunday. Charlie Hogan in his 1933 Ford and Buster Bryan in his 1932 Ford were the quickest cars on the strip that year. Racing stopped after federal officials ordered all drag races on working airfields to be discontinued in 1952. The city of Zephyrhills still operates the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport today, located less than a mile east of the city. The air strip was first opened in 1942 by the U. S. Army Air Force.
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