Florida City Speedway: Racing Into History

Florida City Speedway: Racing Into History #279

  Homestead is annually home to the NASCAR championship race, which brings our community to the attention of millions of racing fans around the world for three days of racing and the week leading up to it. 

  South Dade’s first honest-to-goodness auto racetrack was the Florida City Speedway built in the early 1960s.

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  But even before that, organized auto racing took place at the former Homestead Army Air Field after the September hurricane of 1945 destroyed the base.

  The FloridaPioneerMuseum even houses a copy of that track’s insurance policy.

  Lack of a race track did not hold back the young men of South Dade, however. 

  I have seen several photos of cut down cars and real race cars. 

  The one I remember the best is the one owned by Archer Smith, son of Dr. and Mrs. James Archer Smith.

  Florida City Speedway was a high-banked 1/8 mile asphalt oval track located on Davis Highway in FloridaCity where the flea market later stood.

  It was built in the early 1960s and closed in 1976, in part due to a serious accident and concerns for safety.

  TQ (3/4) midgets raced at the weekly shows with occasional appearances by race karts.

  Mini-stocks were later added, both the modified “A” class, and the stock “B” class.

  The track measured 240 feet in the straightaway with corner radii of 120 feet.

  The track had a width of 35 feet with the bank estimated at 15 degrees.

Alton Brooks, Sr. celebrates winning a race at Florida City Speedway.

  The original plans called for a 4 foot grade on the curves which was increased to 8 feet, which gave the track the reputation as the fastest 1/8 mile track in the country.

  The original track was designed by Sam Peloit, a racer who was a Miami fireman. 

  Some folks remember Calvin Chalker as the contractor who did the grading and laid the asphalt surface, probably pro bono, or at cost.

  Former track champion George Sweeting, who raced nearly everywhere, including the Daytona Beach road course, said that FloridaCity was the toughest track he ever drove.

  The South Florida Racing Association, a TQ midget group, operated the track in the 60s.

  The South Florida Racing Association’s first races in Homestead were at the rodeo grounds, thanks to the help of Dr. John DeMilly, Homestead Rodeo Association President.

  The Speedway was a popular family attraction which also involved community non-profit organizations. 

  Events were sponsored by local people and businesses like Ed Brown, then owner of the South Dade Plaza Barber Shop and now the owner of the Royal Barber Shop. 

  Everything changed on May 24, 1969 when Gary Smith, a 21-year old TQ racer, was killed in an accident at the track.

  This was at a time before roll cages and most of the safety equipment we know today was introduced.

  The other drivers ceased to believe that Florida City Speedway was too small of a track at which to get hurt, and their participation dropped.

  It was not long before the track closed temporarily for about a year.

  The Southern Mini-Stock Racing Association, a group made up of race drivers and owners, had been presenting races at the Hialeah and Hollywood speedways.

  They stepped in to operate the Florida City Speedway and reopened it in August 1970.

  The TQ racers from the South Florida Racing Association returned to racing also; they often ran every other week.

  The owners and drivers often spent all day Saturday at the track, either cutting grass, cleaning, or repairing, and then raced at night.

  The track operated off and on until the summer of 1976 when the gates were locked for good.

  Bob Jensen is Vice President for Community Liaison at 1st National Bank of South Florida, president of the FloridaPioneerMuseum and a retired Navy Commander.

For more details, visit www.southdadenewsleader.com

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