Local Race Track Owners Fight Rezoning In Manatee County
My need for speed began when I was just a typical blonde-haired, freckled kid growing up in Kentucky. My uncle had just come back from Vietnam. He rumbled up to our family reunion on that curvy dirt road riding his reward for making it back home alive…a shiny BSA Lightning motorcycle with a chrome tank.
I kept staring at that gorgeous piece of machinery as I wolfed down country ham and sweet tea. My cousin must have seen me drooling, because he asked me if I wanted a ride. I instinctively looked at my mom, who silently nodded with a knowing smile. I was so small that I had to wrap myself around the gas tank and hold on to the center of the handlebars with all my might. As we putted off into the distance, my cousin revved each gear a little higher and gained a little more speed. I remember feeling my body slide back on the tank as we accelerated. Finally, when we reached the paved portion of that road, my cousin gave that bike all it had. As the adrenaline surged through my body, I grinned broadly and felt the tears being driven from my eyes. We went 110 mph. I was 5 years old. That day changed my life. A switch was flipped, an adventurer was born.
Since then I’ve owned, built and raced countless cars, motorcycles and anything with wheels. I became a member of the 200 mph Club at the Texas Mile on my turbocharged Hayabusa motorcycle. I’ve raced modified Corvettes and Camaros at dozens of tracks across as many states. A track provides a place to meet with friends and people who share your passion. It’s also nice to have a facility that has been designed from the ground up to minimize risk to drivers and spectators. When I hit a wall in my 2,400 horsepower Outlaw 10.5 Corvette a few years back, an ambulance with track personnel was the first to respond. I’ve raced at Bradenton Motorsports Park dozens of times and I’ve watched Freedom Factory/Cleetus McFarland videos for years.
Despite the huge success of two race tracks in Manatee County, they are both currently at risk of disappearing, and we can’t have that. Bradenton Motorsports Park and The Freedom Factory, which is right next door, are caught up in a zoning battle that could erase them both from existence if they lose the fight. A real estate developer wants to rezone an area next to the tracks and build houses there. Here’s the problem, wherever that has happened in the past, it’s meant the eventual demise of the track involved. You see, people who buy the houses that are close to the tracks wind up complaining about the noise anyway and the track is forced to close. The thing is, the tracks have been there for about 50 years and they are thriving. The owner of The Freedom Factory, Garrett Mitchell aka Cleetus McFarland, has over 2.5 million followers on YouTube. It’s arguably the largest automotive channel in America. See the issue?
Just yesterday, the owners of both respectibve tracks appeared at a zoning meeting in Manatee County in an attempt to convince administrators to deny the rezoning request. Over 15,000 people watched the proceedings (as I did) via streaming and thousands of other racing fans voiced their opinions by email and social media. Many supporters even showed up in person, one flying in from Arizona to have his voice heard. The rezoning request was okayed 5-2 by the board and now moves to the state level.
You Guys Need To Simmer Down!
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