Much more than just the oval - South Dade News Leader: Opinion

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Much more than just the oval

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Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2019 9:09 pm

When most people think of Homestead-Miami Speedway, the first thing that comes to mind is the fact that we’ve been the host of NASCAR’s championships in all three national series since 2002. Since Ford Championship Weekend is our signature event, the Speedway is known mostly for its 1.5-mile oval that NASCAR uses when it comes to South Florida.

If you take a longer look next time you’re here, you’ll notice that our track has much more to offer than the oval. We also have a 2.21-mile road course that incorporates the straightaways from the oval track and is actually used for more events than the oval. In addition to what’s inside the track itself, we also have an RC track just outside our main entrance and a karting facility adjacent to the Speedway.

The karting track, AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex, hosts a number of events each year that help highlight the breadth of our facility. About a year ago, the Speedway agreed to a long-term partnership with Vantage Karting Group (VKG) Entertainment to allow them to take on an operational and managerial role of the karting track.

For VKG Entertain-ment, this wasn’t their first venture in managing a track as they also operate GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina. GoPro Motorplex has been open since 2012, and following the success that it’s had, VKG Entertainment was looking to expand into sunny South Florida where karting could be run year round.

Since VKG Entertainment moved to the Homestead facility and began making improvements, we’ve started to see AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex really grow. This past weekend they hosted one of the biggest karting events in North America, the SuperKarts! USA (SKUSA) Winter Series.

More than 250 competitors in 11 different classes traveled from all over the world to compete all weekend long at the karting track. In addition to some of the top go karting racers from around the world being on-hand for the event, the presence of several legendary race car drivers was clearly evident.

Two-time Formula One champion Emerson Fittipaldi and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya were both at AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex this weekend to watch their sons compete amongst the elite field of drivers. I’ve written many times in the past about how racing is passed down from generation to generation, and there was no better example of this than being at the karting track last weekend and watching Fittipaldi and Montoya interact with their sons in between driving sessions.

Watching Fittipaldi and Montoya work with their sons also made me think about how important AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex could be to someone’s racing career. Many of the top drivers in motorsports history, whether it be in NASCAR, IndyCar or Formula One, started their careers in go-karting.

Drivers such as Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon in NASCAR, or Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher in Formula One all started driving go karts at an early age. Seeing names like that makes me wonder if one day a NASCAR driver might be racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway and talking about how he remembers competing at AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex as a child. With the karting track gaining notoriety from events such as the SKUSA Winter Series this past weekend, it’s not hard to imagine this scenario happening one day.

In fact, that day may be closer than we realize. The two NASCAR Drive for Diversity drivers that I wrote about last week, Nick Sanchez and Ernie Francis Jr., spent a lot of time at AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex growing up. Sanchez in particular made a name for himself after getting behind the wheel for the first time right here in Homestead and participating in some of the major competitions that the karting track held during his childhood.

If you didn’t get a chance to come out for the SKUSA Winter Series this past weekend, I really encourage you to come check it out when the series returns. It was neat to walk around the facility and see it set up just like the Speedway is for Ford Championship Weekend. There were haulers lined up everywhere, people working on their karts and even displays and vendors selling everything from art to racing helmets.

As AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex continues to grow, I look forward to seeing what other events the karting track will be able to add to its calendar. In addition to hosting some of the largest touring series in North America, AMR Homestead-Miami Motorplex also provides rental karts. The rental kart is the perfect experience when looking to have a day of fun with friends and family.

AMR-Homestead-Miami Motorplex has become an integral part of Homestead-Miami Speedway, and the SKUSA Winter Series this past weekend was the latest reminder of that. The karting track has become a special feature helping to make Homestead-Miami Speedway the epicenter of racing in South Florida and if you haven’t rented a kart yet, I recommend getting out there and seeing just how fast you can go.

UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY

Jan. 18-19 - 24 Hour Ultra Skate

Jan. 20 - Performance Driving Group

Jan. 26 - Miami Exotic Auto Racing

Feb. 1 - Fast Lane Friday

Feb. 2-3 - Chin Motorsports Car Club

Feb. 9-10 - Championship Cup Series

Feb. 13 - Miami Exotic Auto Racing

Feb. 16-17 - Formula & Automobile Racing Association

Feb. 18 - Rusty Wallace Racing Experience

Feb. 23-24 - National Auto Sport Association

2019 HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY NASCAR DATES

Nov. 15 - Ford EcoBoost 200 Gander Outdoors Truck Series Championship Race

Nov. 16 - Ford EcoBoost 300 XFINITY Series Championship Race

Nov. 17 - Ford EcoBoost 400 Monster Energy Series Championship

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