Allen Moody | Highlands Today
Published: November 25, 2015
Those suffering from racing withdraws this weekend ? the Lamborghini Super Trofeo is over and we?re still a little over a week away from the Sebring Historics Presented by Alan Jay Automotive Network ? may want to take advantage of the long weekend to head to Homestead- Miami Speedway for the Miami 500, which is the premier event each year for the Formula & Automobile Racing Association.
?It?s our biggest race of the year,? said Carlos Mendez, CEO of FARA. ?It?s a great race. The cars and drivers are top-notch.?
Mendez said they?re expecting close to 20,000 fans for the event, which is coming on the heels of NASCAR?s season finale at the same track.
While the four-hour race on Sunday is the big attraction, there will be plenty of activities for families, such as a car show, numerous food vendors, a Kid?s Zone and more.
Racing fans will also be treated to an exhibition race from Southern Pro Am Truck Series, who will be racing over the 2.23-mile track.
?It?s a huge opportunity for them to run at a track where NASCAR runs,? said Bobby Owens, president of the Southern Pro Am Truck Series.
This weekend will also be an opportunity for local race fans to get a sneak preview of what they can expect at Sebring International Raceway on July 9 and 10, when FARA presents the Sebring 500. The Southern Pro Am Truck Series will also be on hand for that event.
The trucks went to Homestead-Miami for a test in August and they were well-received.
?People were excited to see trucks on a road course,? said Lake Placid?s Randy Leonard, who will be competing at Homestead-Miami this weekend. ?I must have signed 100 autographs.?
Leonard said the trucks were exceptionally quick over the road course in their hour-long test.
?I felt the trucks could be very competitive on the road course,? he said. ?We might put on the best show of the weekend!?
Owens said there were a few logistics that the truck teams would have to deal with, such as trying to cool automatic transmissions for those who don?t have manual transmissions, as well as setting up the trucks for right and left turns, as opposed to just left-hand turns the trucks make when they?re running the more traditional oval tracks.
?The biggest challenge for them is doing 10 laps,? Owens said. ?These guys will have to save some brakes and tires for maybe the first six laps and after that they can start racing the others.?
One thing Mendez and FARA want to do is make the event affordable for entire families, so fans can go to the FARA website (www.farausa.com) and click on a Courtesy Ticket link, where they enter their name and e-mail address and will receive a courtesy ticket to the event. The only charge will then be for parking, so a carload of people with courtesy tickets can park at the front grandstand entrance for $10, while those wanting to park in the infield and have garage access can do so for $20.
He was hoping to do something similar when the series comes to Sebring in July.
Owens, who also owns Driver?s Seat Racing, which is a driver development program and also rents trucks for Southern Pro Am events, said truck racing is often overlooked by those wanting to get started in racing, but there are definite advantages to being well-versed in all avenues of racing and for younger racers, trucks are frequently a much-more cost effective way of racing top-notch competition and honing their skills.
NASCAR drivers Joey Logano and Ross Chastain both used Florida truck racing to improve their talents, which is why Owens was pleased to see young drivers in his series, such as Cole Partelo, Taylor Moxley. Taylor Hosford, Cody Martell and Chad Chastain, who is the younger brother of Ross Chastain and has shown talent in the pro truck division.
?I cater to younger kids,? he said. ?We?re a Christian-based company and very passionate about trucks.?
Mendez said the trucks have been well-received judging by social media outlets and from their test at the track and he believed it would be a great support event for the Miami 500, which currently has 65 cars, including seven Prototypes, nine Porsches, three Lamborghinis, along with Corvettes, Camaros and an Aston Martin.
A number of drivers from the FARA series have moved up the ladder, including Ernie Francis Jr., who is making his mark in Pirelli World Challenge, and Ethan Low, who is competing in the Continental Tire Challenge Series.
?Ethan won the FARA Cup last year,? Mendez said. ?In interviews he?s always very kind to mention his FARA background.?
While Leonard is looking forward to this weekend, he did say he was a little disappointed his partner in Martell-Leonard Motorsports, Cody Martell, won?t be able to compete after blowing a motor in the last oval event he competed in.
Owens said it should be a great weekend of racing and thought those who haven?t seen the Southern Pro Am Truck Series would be in for a pleasant surprise.
?I hope everybody has a good time and enjoys the racing we have to offer,? he said. ?We don?t mind banging fenders. I know the sportscar people don?t like contact, but that?s just how we race.?