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Stock Car Facility Reach 65- Year Milestone

CITRUS COUNTY SPEEDWAY
Pure stock competitors challenge each during the 2019 stock car season. Citrus County Speedway will open for its 65th season Saturday, February 1. TYLER SONTAG/SPEED RACER PHOTO

Stock Car Facility Reach 65- Year Milestone

CITRUS COUNTY SPEEDWAY

By: KIMBERLY KELLY
FOR THE CHRONICLE

What was once a watermelon field is today a premier race facility with a competitor and fan base that reaches across the state of Florida.
Citrus County Speedway has been in operation since 1955 and had continued to provide stock car racing for 65 years this year.

Located just south of Inverness at the Citrus County Fairgrounds, the race track has seen many changes throughout its history. First a dirt track, then paved, the addition of the figure 8 track, and additional upgrades over the years, Citrus County Speedway has evolved into what it is today.
“The prompter has taken our facility up a notch and to the next professional level,” Citrus County Fair Manager Hal Porter said of the Ray family. “The investment they’ve made will keep racing enthusiasts happy for many years.”


“We wanted to give people somewhere nice to go, a place that was clean and family-friendly, a place where the people would come,” said Citrus County Speedway General Manager Camron Ray. “And we wanted to prove that racing is not dead in the state of Florida.”


Citrus County Speedway has had its share of promoters, both good and bad, and has had seasons where it was unclear if there would be a next one. Ray took over the track after the former promoter Gary Laplant was unsuccessful at keeping the action going.


And much like Ray, in 1985, a pair of promoters had a vision to create an atmosphere that is much like how the track is today.

Dan Jones, a former Promoter of the Year for his success at Sunshine Speedway, and Jack Donahey, an insurance writer for many of Florida’s racetracks at the time, took over as promoters and laid out the groundwork that would move the racetrack into a successful operation for the next 11 years.


Since 1996, the track has hand a handful of promoters who have brought on their own vision for local racing.


“I was on way to Floral City to get oranges and saw the track sign,” said long time track patron Jack Husler said.


The track was closed for the off season but when it reopened Husler was there.


“When I went in they had old wooden benches and a lot of cars of various types. I was not acquainted with all the different classes but I knew enough about what was going on to enjoy my night. I knew I would be back.”
Hustler was not the only one who returned to watch their favorite driver compete. Year after year local race fans as well as those from across the state would make their way to the Inverness venue to watch their favorite drivers compete.

“It was a good old country race track,” Husler said. “The thing about racetracks, it’s a big family.”


Driver counts continued to grow as did the number of divisions and specialty events that were on the schedule for the year.


“I have seen it go from the good ole race track in the field with refreshment stands and some souvenirs to what is now a much more technical track,” Jack Husler said,


“The track itself, the racing ability, it’s the best track for side-by-side racing,” said longtime racer and multi-year track champion Herb Neumann Jr. said. “It’s phenomenal.”


“Every year we improve,” Camron Ray said. “It’s going to keep on getting bigger and better.”

The 2020 season will include the regular division classes including Super Late Models, Open Wheel Modifieds, Pure Stocks, Mini Stocks, Outlaw Street Stocks, Ford Outlaws, Mod Mini, traveling shows such as Wheel Man Sportsman, Florida Pro Truck Challenge, Daytona Antique Auto Racing Association, and Legends Cars, and specialty Shows including School Bus Figure 8, Enduros, Flag Pole Race, Chain Car Race, Boat Trailer Race, and Demolition Derby.


Citrus County Speedway has also partnered with Speed51 to broadcast more races with live broadcasting which would expand the reach of the race track beyond the state of Florida to potentially include the entire country. This in turn, according to Ray, could bring more competitors to the Inverness facility from other states.


“Every year we are going to try to do more exciting things, put on bigger races,” Camron Ray said.


“They have truly been a great partner for the facility and the community,” said Hal Porter.


The 65th stock car season at Citrus County Speedway is set to open Saturday, February 1 with a full lineup including the Super Late Model 75, Pure Stock 25, Anything Automotive Mini Stock 25, Outlaw Street Stock 25, and Ford Outlaw 25.

Kimberly Kelly covers race action at Citrus County Speedway for the Citrus County Chronicle. This article appeared Tuesday, January 21, 2020.