By Victoria Beaver
Where else but Florida would Mother Nature find a new way to impact a racing weekend? At East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, track regulars have learned to check the tide schedule online or printed in the local paper — because if you go in unprepared, the track could pull you under like a riptide.
“It’s crazy. Since we’re so close to the bay, the tide has a lot to do with the racing surface,” Devin Dixon explained. “For instance if it’s going to be a low tide anywhere between 7 and 10 at night normally it’s going to dry out and get wide. If it’s going to be high tide around that same time, it’s going to be pretty heavy. It’s not as much racing wise. It’s pretty good, but there’s less passing because it’s hammered down.”
While the track locals have learned how to read the conditions at East Bay and adjust to low and high tides, a number of drivers from outside the region can expect a hard transition to the track at the second annual Dalton Myers 54 on Saturday, Dec. 16.
In 1990, Scott Bloomquist broke his wrist when he started running hot laps on a dry track and finished them on a wet one. Bloomquist was running full speed when water started to seep up, creating a much slicker racing surface. The broken wrist wouldn’t keep Bloomquist down for long, as the next week he went on to win his second World 100 at Eldora Speedway.
"Some nights, it’s almost like trying to ride a greased pig."
“[The tide] definitely does [impact the racing],” Doug Horton said. “I learned that years ago traveling down here. You need to know before you go if the tide is coming in or out. You can tell by the way that the race track is prepared if the tide is coming in. Later in the evening it will push that moisture up to the race track. Some nights, it’s almost like trying to ride a greased pig. It gets slick and it takes some time to read into the race track and learn how the tide affects it. Being down here with the water table as high as it is it definitely affects the racing surface.”
The shape and banking of the track increase the effect of the tides, as turn one and two sit lower than turns three and four. Since the first set of corners sit closer to the water table underneath, they get slicker faster as the tide rises.
“East Bay is one of those places that when you race it you either love the place or you hate the place,” Horton said. “It’s just one of those race tracks. It’s a pretty physical race track where you need to be up on the wheel and get after it at times, and when it gets slick it’s even more difficult to get around then a lot of other places I’ve been.”
Dalton Myers 54 Coverage
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