The Florida countryside has a different vibe to it. The air is brimming with positivity – it’s the perfect place to make a fresh start. Few cities embody that spirit more than Miami, where thousands of new homes have sprung up in the last few years and investment is back in the area.
That much was clear when we set out to discover the size of Miami Homestead Speedway, the country’s 5th-largest racetrack. We’ll take a look at what size is, how to measure it, and what it means for you as a driver.
What Is The Size Of A Racetrack?
When you walk into a restaurant, you’ll usually see a sign in the window that indicates what kind of food they serve. That’s the same with a racetrack. You’ll see speed signs along the roadside, but what do they mean? How big is it?
The answer is complicated because the dimensions change depending on which track you visit. However, let’s look at the overall shape of a typical, modern day racetrack. It will help you understand what size is.
If you’ve ever been to Watkins Glen or Sonoma, you’ll know what a round racetrack looks like. It’s the most basic shape of a race track, made up of two long straights and a couple of turns. The length of the straight determines the distance the car can travel before hitting a turn. The slower the speed, the longer the straight – and the better the racing.
Around half of all modern-day racetracks are made up of a combination of straights and turns. These are known as ‘short’ tracks, and are used for local racing or dirt bike races. The longest of these is 2.5 miles and is named after its length – the Daytona Short Track. The advantage of a short track is that it’s a fast and furious kind of race. The disadvantage is that it’s also a short track, which means there’s not a lot of room for mistakes. If you’re not careful, you’ll flip over or hit a barrier. Some people even call these types of tracks ‘death traps.’
If you’ve ever seen an IndyCar race, then you know what a heart cut-out is. It’s a collection of lanes cut through the middle of a track, forming a heart shape. The advantage of these types of tracks is that they can be quite scenic, drawing large crowds. The disadvantage is that you have to slow down a little on the straights, since there’s nowhere to go but forward. It’s tiring driving on a heart cut-out, and you have to be extra careful not to hit a curb or a spectator.
What’s the difference between a round track and a flat rocker? It’s all in the name – a flat rocker race track has smooth, even ground around every single turn, like a flat piece of granite. It was designed to accommodate midget cars and go-karts, originally built in the 1960s.
One of the best known flat rocker tracks is the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s actually an ‘oval’ track, but that’s what it’s called because it was built around a horse-racing track. The advantage of a flat rocker is that it’s easy to navigate – there are no bumpy sections, which can be dangerous for the drivers. It has also become a popular venue for walk-behind tractor pulls.
Longer The Better
As we’ve established, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to car racing. The size of a racetrack changes depending on what you’re driving, the terrain, and the weather. Drivers have to take that into consideration and prepare accordingly. If you’re driving a stock car at Talladega or Daytona, you might want to go fast, because there’s nowhere for you to go but forward. At a metropolis-level race like the Indianapolis 500, you want to be careful not to hit a bump or dip in the road, since there’s so much traffic. You also want to make sure you give the other drivers enough room to pass.
If you’ve ever been to Wisconsin, then you know what dry lakes are – great locations for motorsport in the summer. It’s a mix of car racing and motorcycle racing, with the emphasis on having fun. The difference is that water is allowed to be present during the whole event, which adds an extra layer of danger. If you’re not careful, the slick surface can cause you to hydroplane or spin out. It’s one of the most exciting races in the US during the summer, drawing big crowds – and a lot of heartache for the drivers.
Mixing It Up
What do you get when you combine short tracks and dry lakes? You get something that is both exciting and dangerous at the same time. Duane Chapman took advantage of this unique combination when he won the 2017 Indianapolis 500, becoming the first black American to win the prestigious event. He also became the first black man to win the IndyCar championship. The short track served as preparation for the big one, and it showed – he won by a record-breaking 16 seconds.
This was all thanks to the support of his car owner, Michael Krowne, who made a strategic decision to run a shorter, more dangerous race to set his star driver up for the big one. Krowne, who is from a family of racers, knew exactly what he was doing.
The Countryside Of Florida
When you’re in the country, the air is thick with possibility. You can almost feel the buzz of excitement emanating from the green grass and the white clouds in the blue sky. It’s quite a different vibe to that of a big city, and it inspired us to seek out the country road less travelled.
Let’s take a look at some of the places you can drive and what they have to offer. We’ll begin in the northern part of the state, where the landscape is lush and picturesque.
The Everglades is a vast area of southern Florida, notable for its wetlands. These are areas of standing water that can be several yards across. Some of these can hold up to a thousand gallons of water. It’s a World Heritage Site, home to endangered species like the American alligator and the Florida panther. While it’s not actually possible to drive through the Everglades, there are a number of walking and driving tours you can take that give you an insight into the ecology of this fascinating place. It’s like a whole other world under the water!
The most popular walking tour is known as the Tom Sawyer Island Explorer tour. This begins at Flamingo Visitor Center and leads to a small island known as Tom Sawyer Island. You’ll have a chance to get off the beaten track and explore the dense rainforest, where you might see some wildlife. If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot a bear or an alligator. You can even rent kayaks or paddle boats to get closer to the action – this is one of the best ways to get a feel for the place.
The Florida Keys
We headed south to the Florida Keys, another beautiful cluster of islands that straddle the country-like Straights of Florida. The chain spans some sixty miles, but the majority of it is made up of smaller, less populated islands. It was once home to endangered species like the Bahama Tortoise and the Key Deer. You can drive through the Keys and take in the gorgeous scenery, stop at some of the islands, and even camp out for the night.
One of the most famous islands is Key Largo, which is accessible by ferry from the mainland. It’s located next to the famous No Name Key, which is cut in half by the Gulf of Mexico. This is one of the most photographed and well-known keys in the world because of its beautiful beaches and its picturesque fishing boats. It’s a great place to take a break from the bustle of the city, and it’s a popular location for camping and fishing – there are even a few bars and eateries on-site.