What A Drag! The Roar Of The Engines,
The Yells Of The Crowd Will Soon Be History: Development Spells The End Of A Landmark Drag-racing Track.
December 9, 1992|By T.M. SHINE, Staff
Writer Sun Sentinel
“This is it,”Robert Schultz says.
As he stands on the grounds of Miami-Hollywood Motorsports
Park, it`s immediately clear what he means. That this is it -- the racing in this town is over. Even if you`re not a racing
fan, you probably remember parking on the grounds when you made the trek out to the Hollywood Sportatorium years ago. The
arena, still deteriorating nicely on the horizon, sits on the same stretch of swampland a mile west of Interstate 75 on Pines
There was a time when the two venues had to share this space with thousands. “When they had something going,
everyone would park at the track,” says Bob Lee, who has raced in the area for 30 years. “And when we had a big
meet, they`d be jammed in clear on the other side of the Sportatorium.”
The space for the track and the arena is still wide
open, but the walls are closing in. The SilverLakes housing development is about to overcome the legendary drag strip. “There`s
483 acres here,`` says Paul Wunderlich, co- manager of the drag strip. ``They figure that`s enough for another 1,260 homes.”
Wunderlich would rather be talking about the days of fire burnouts on the starting line, but he can no longer ignore
the finish line. The land has been sold. The last drag race at the Motorsports Park will be on Saturday.
Opening in March
1966, the half-million-dollar facility was an instant showplace for national drag-racing events. “Big Daddy” Don
Garlits used to brag about the huge lounge at this new track. He`d never seen anything like it. All the
big names followed the big money: “Jungle Jim” Liberman, Dale Armstrong, “TV Tommy” Ivo, Shirley Muldowney.
pick up old Hot Rod magazines from the `70s at car shows and they talk about this track like it was a big deal,” says
Ron Caesar, who`s here to run his street `Vette. “So much history.”
Hot Rod Association ran its Winter Nationals at Miami- Hollywood in `75 and `76. The track held the annual Coca-Cola Funny
Car Cavalcade of Stars.
Cars more famous than their drivers made regular appearances: Hemi Under Glass, Blue Max, Color Me Gone, Little Red
Wagon. Nitro hybrids, jets, alcohol dragsters. All exploded down the quarter-mile. The track became notorious
for its circus acts: “Bullet” Bailey being tied up and dragged down the track behind a funny car at 192 mph. Freddy
“Boom Boom” Cannon blowing himself up on special occasions.
Those were the days.
But those haven`t
been the days since the early `80s. Promoters ran the track into the ground during the `70s and it wasn`t until Dick Moroso
took over the lease in 1986 that the track got a second life. His Moroso Motorsports Park in West Palm Beach took most of
the glory meets, while Miami-Hollywood occasionally ran jets to draw a crowd and had bracket racing every other Saturday night.
But it`s what they
call the Test and Tune nights at Miami-Hollywood that became the heart of this drag scene. The track that was once a national
sensation began catering to the local driver, both professional and novice, these last few years. For a small fee, guys like
Robert Schultz and Ron Caesar could come out and race their cars.
“Run what you brung,” Wunderlich says.
“I`ve been coming out for about 15 years,” Schultz says. “You can race anything out here. You can
race a Dodge Omni if you want to.”
On this night, local drivers are lined up for a half-mile to participate in one
of the final Test and Tune nights -- driving everything from new 5.0 Mustangs to Ninja motorcyles to old state trooper cars.
“There`s going to be a huge void when this is all gone,” Schultz says, eyeing the lineup. “Just what
we need, more housing developments. They call it progress. I call it regress.”
Most feel the old will pack it in and the young
will take to the streets. “Cops will be lockin` people up,” says Britt Butts, who brought out
his `67 Camaro to race one more time.
His friend, Jim Collins, has his own vintage `67, and they hope to
get lined up together. “We`re locals,” they say. “Went to Hallandale High together. This is like our hometown
track.” For them, the only alternative to the street is to go to Moroso in West Palm. “Seventy miles. Can`t do
it,” Butts says.
Dan Reynolds says he`ll go the distance. He and his 13-year-old
son, Louis, have been racing for about six months, and the father and son project has changed their relationship. “Not
much in common before this,” Dan says. “Now we talk.” They live in Plantation and probably
wouldn`t have built a car together if the track weren`t so close. Tonight, they`re testing a new cam shaft. Each week, the
car has gotten faster. They`ve gone from 17 seconds in the quarter to 13s and now 12s. “Can`t stop
now,” Dan says. And besides, so far Dad has gotten to do all the driving. Louis won`t be able to get behind the wheel
for another few years.