First, the back story: As any astute student of Florida history will tell you, the developers run the state, have for over a century. Developers figure that oceans and lakes sell, and swamps don’t. The bottom of the state is pretty much swamp, which the developers have dug “canals” and “lakes” in, using the resulting fill to build up roads and more recently building up building slabs to get above flood plain (barely). And no word frightens a Florida developer more than “swamp”, which may explain why they’ve been doing their best to strangle swamp buggy racing. Yup, the Florida Motorsports Park, home of swamp buggy racing, is now pretty much surrounded by new housing developments.

Florida’s government has learned a bit (but not much more) since the days of swampland-to-city projects like the failed Golden Gate Estates. So said developers had to build a 4 lane road into their new development next to the swamp buggy raceswamp, and they’ve been taking their sweet time doing it. Heck, they were starting on it last January and it still ain’t done. There’s another road, unpaved and narrow, that runs to the park too… But the local officials wouldn’t let the swamp buggies race with just one escape route available, and last fall’s race had to be cancelled. The developers were probably licking their chops at the prospect of choking off the swamp buggy races before their model homes were even finished, but this 2nd of the annual 3 race series went on, developers be damned!

ImageLuv the smell of swamp mud in the mornin”!

ImageThe tow chain of shame…

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And that wasn’t the fastest buggy…

ImageMass transit at the swamp buggy races…

ImageMaybe NASCAR wouldn’t be so boring if they raced in the rain?

ImageNASCAR could use some color, too…

ImageWouldn’t be swamp buggy races without the Jeeps tryin’ to ford the “Sippy Hole”…

ImageThe “Jeeps” are a link to swamp buggy history, when local hunters and farmers would modify old Jeeps to get through the swamps. Sure enough, they had to see who’s was fastest, and swamp racing began over a half century ago. The Jeeps have to use a 4 cylinder Jeep engine, and despite what the kids trying to do 90 with Jeeps on the Interstate think, Jeeps aren’t aerodynamic, and they’re even less hydrodynamic. As a result, even a hopped up Jeep can barely move through five feet of water, throw in a sogged spark plug or three and in every single race at least one Jeep stalled out in the “Sippy Hole”… No wonder the Jeeps are the fan’s favorites!

ImageSometimes the Jeeps get a little “intimate” too… Substantial push bars front and rear are standard equipment, and the Jeeps will draft and bump each other through the Sippy Hole. This couple managed to lock bumpers, requiring the assistance of a front end loader to untangle them.

The organizers, no doubt trying to make up for lost income from the cancelled races, created a few new hassles that did nothing to enhance revenue. For a start, they turned the ragged and ratty grandstand that I’d found to be a great camera location in previous years into “VIP seating”, and I never saw more a dozen “VIPs” there all day. So I and the other amateur photogs made the best of it, shooting from along the fence, being careful not to block anyone’s sight lines. Than another new feature appeared, a couple members of a local service club with “Security” T-shirts who insisted we couldn’t be along the fence. After all the hassle and anticipating a dusty exit along the remaining dirt road, I left a bit early… And noticed that despite all the “security”, the pit entrance was totally unsecured!

Despite the hassles, was great to see the swamp buggy races survive, and may they race for many years to come!

 

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