Thursday, 18 June 2015

Florida: American motorsport's prime premier location

Last month Red Bull Global Rallycross kicked off their 2015 season with an event on the streets of Fort Lauderdale in Florida.

The event marked the second time the series has visited the southern state and the first time that the opening round of the year had been held there.

Of course, the Sunshine Sate is no stranger to hosting motor racing curtain raisers. Each of North America's biggest racing series have hosted their openers there for a number of years.


Since 1982 the biggest racing series in America, the NASCAR Sprint Cup, has held their season opener on the east coast in Daytona Beach.

The Daytona 500, as it has been known since the early 60s, began following the construction of the famed Daytona International Speedway in the 1950s. Prior to the 500 miles races on the purpose built facility, stock car races took place on the beach and surrounding roads a few short miles away.

The first Daytona 500 in 1959 saw Lee Petty triumph in a race that saw a staggering 59 cars start the race in what was one of the very few times a NASCAR race had managed to go from start to finish without a single caution period.

The first time Daytona held the season opener was a little more controversial however.

During the race, eventual winner Bobby Allison lost his bumper after contact with Cale Yarborough, resulting in a big wreck for those who hit the wayward piece of bodywork.

When the race resumed, Allison's was now considerably quicker, allowing him to go on to lead the most laps on his way to victory. Allison and his crew were accused of intending for the bumper to detach from the car, a claim they have always denied.

Nowadays, NASCAR's top-three series all begin their seasons at Daytona, as does the similar but not affiliated ARCA Racing Series.

United SportsCar Championship

Daytona has also played host to one of America's biggest sports car endurance races, The 24 Hours of Daytona.

The traditional first stop on the Rolex Sports Car Series calendar for a number of years, since 2014 the endurance classic has been the opening round of the unified United SportsCar Championship.

Despite the merger of the Rolex series with the American Le Mans Series, the first two 24 Hours of Daytona for the unified series have been won by Daytona Prototypes, a class born in the days of the NASCAR affiliated Rolex Sports Car Series.

This year's event saw Chip Ganassi Racing take the victory with a driver roster filled with NASCAR and IndyCar talent. In fact, Ganassi is currently the only organisation that has entered each of the races on this list.


St. Petersburg in Tampa first held an open-wheel curtain-raiser back in 2003 when it held the first round of the CART season that year. Paul Tracy won the race that year, going on to claim the CART title in the process, becoming the last driver to win the championship before Sebastien Bourdais' dominance and the series' eventual merger with the Indy Racing League.

The race didn't return the following year with promoter disputes to blame. When the race did return in 2005 it was part of the IRL calendar - the series' first even non-oval event.

It wasn't until 2009, one year on from the unification of CART and the IRL, when St. Petersburg would host the opening round of an open wheel season. Besides 2010 when the honour went to Sao Paulo, St. Petersburg has held the first round of the IndyCar season for every year since.

That looked to change this year when again the opening round of the season was scheduled to take place in Brazil, this time in Brasilia. However, the money soon dried up and round one was quickly back in St. Pete.

Global Rallycross

Irwindale, Charlotte, Foz do IguaƧu, Barbados - The Global Rallycross series has had a different host for it's opening round for each of it's five seasons.

This year though, like all of America's top-level motorsport championships, Florida welcomed Global Rallycross to the state to kick-off their season.

The event was won by fan favourite, Ken Block, who took an easy victory in the event final after making a clean getaway at the start whilst the rest of the field fought over positions behind him.

Block was consistently top of the speed charts at the series last visit to the sate in 2014 when the Red Bull-backed series stopped off at Daytona of all places. This year not just round one, but round two of the championship will take place in Florida with the series' return to Daytona taking place this weekend. 

Earlier in the year to avoid the high temperatures of last season's event, this year the event will be a double header, meaning twice as much racing and twice as many points up for grabs.

Images:,,, IndyCar Media, Larry Chen, Dominik Wilde

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