Got Me An Asphalt Track Date…
by Dave Mitchell
I like sports. It’s not always the hippest admission in some circles, but I do like sports. But I know few people, while they may scorn baseball or football, whose eyes don’t light up at the mention of that finest of motorsports, Figure Eight School Bus Racing.
Orlando Speedworld is a quarter-mile asphalt oval which lies by where Highways 50 and 520 merge near Bithlo. Almost every Friday night, Speedworld hosts a variety of stock car events under the banner of the FASCAR organization. Classes run from slick Late Models and Modifieds to entry level Bombers and Runabouts (imagine 25-35 beat-up Pintos and Gremlins running side-by-side around a high school football field!) There’s the occasional visit by winged sprint cars, and “run-what-you-brung” events.
But every couple of months or so, Speedworld lets its freak flag fly with some sort of gadget race. For instance, this past spring Speedworld ran a “Boat and Trailer” race. A half a dozen or so junker boats were strapped to equally squalid trailers and hooked up to a field of bomber-class stock cars. The green flag dropped and the havoc began. Trailer wheels went flying amid a shower of sparks. Boats slammed into the walls and each other, blanketing the track and the stands with a cloud of white particles of mystery boat debris. One trailer had a mannequin fisherman angling from the back; by midrace he had been decapitated and hung limply to one side, his pole rattling the catchfence.
The Figure Eight School Bus Races are something like a phenomenon. It began a few years ago with a couple of clunker buses, but has evolved into races featuring as many as a dozen buses. Many are hastily spray-painted (a lot of #69s), but more than a few are as nattily decorated as any Limited Late Model. There’s always Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt lookalikes, and the bus with screaming cartoon children in the windows is always a crowd pleaser.
Like any other race at the track, the rules are simple: X number of laps, first across the finish line wins. But remember, these are figure eight races. Imagine a dozen rattletrap school buses, careening along a narrow track towards a crossover filled with more smoking and sliding buses. I’ve never seen any buses collide head-on in the crossover, but I’ve seen a few pile-ups as a lead bus brakes to avoid the crossover and is rear-ended by the bus behind. More likely to be seen are rollovers as the precariously-balanced heaps try to negotiate the turns, and spectacular engine failures.
Tickets to the last such event I attended ran $15, which may seem steep, but for almost five hours of racing action is much less than an equal time spent, say, at a movie. Plus, you can’t get a can of Bud and a sack of boiled peanuts at the Stripmall Movieplex. Speedworld has a sister track in New Smyrna; while I can’t say for sure if they host any similar goofball events (though a pal of mine attended a motorcycle demolition derby there), you may wish to visit it to sample the locally-raised Ostrich on a Stick.
For updated event schedules, call (407) 568-1367.