Track owner Bubba Clem checking the track surface. (All photos courtesy of R.E. Wing Photos)

Bubba “the Love Sponge” Clem opened the newly renamed Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida, with a race that he plans on making an annual event. The Mike Peters Open was named after the previous owner of the track, then named Ocala Speedway, in honor of the innovations Peters brought to the track during his ownership.

Peters, a former racer at Ocala Speedway, purchased the track in order to keep the racetrack operating during a difficult time. Wanting to see the racetrack continue as part of the Florida racing scene, Peters made the move to cover the track’s surface with dirt and hold dirt track racing. Peters proved to be a very good promoter with fans filling the stands every race weekend. “I try to stick to the basics, don’t live out of the drivers wallets,  and try my best to keep racing affordable. I’m also sure to continuously focus on getting one more guest coming in our grandstands each and every week,” Peters once said about his promoting strategy.

Bubba Clem bought the track and after a short renovation period where new clay and updates to the facility took place, the opening of Bubba Raceway Park on Friday launched a new era in dirt track racing in Florida’s racing culture.

With almost 100 cars showing up in three different classes and a capacity crowd on hand to see the grand opening, the evening started well. As with any new venture, there were bound to be some glitches and things to be learned. Bubba and his Army of track workers were obviously worried about the track’s racing surface. Long lines at the concession stands and longer tech inspections for the competitors were some of the first day issues that were identified by the track’s operator.

Bubba Clem released an open letter to the press, fans and racers of the track describing the lessons that were learned and what his staff intended to do about the problems that were identified. The contents of Clem’s letter (published below) show that he is serious about running good races and giving fans an enjoyable atmosphere to watch dirt track racing. We applaud Clem’s openness and honesty with the racers and fans.

Bubba Clem’s Open Letter to Racer and Fans of Bubba Raceway Park:

Dear Fellow racers and spectators,

First of all I wanted to thank you for coming to either race or watch this past Friday night here at Bubba Raceway Park.

We had a amazing turnout of both racers and spectators.  Almost 100 cars in only 3 divisions.  The racers and spectators came through, now I as the new track owner need to come through on my part.

Granted, I’ve made some big improvements with regards to lots of stuff- but please understand how disappointed I am on a few of the things I feel were not up to speed.  Please also understand that as I type these less than perfect aspects within Bubba Raceway Park I’ve also been working since the lights out Friday night to fix them.

  1. The track conditions, we all were very disappointed in the surface. We have a very good idea on what we did wrong. And I can promise you we are addressing it NOW  I sat on a tractor till 9pm Saturday tilling the surface.  This is very important to me.
  2. The long lines at the concession stands and the entrance.  I know I would be full hot having to stand in line for a long time. I’m sure you were as well. I am going to build more concession stands and am looking at those plans Monday.
  3. Late Model payouts. Tech took too long. Plain and simple. If in a big race Travis the tech guy wants a head off. The racer has a hour and 15 min to get it off. I want to get you paid faster.
  4. The bathroom person that’s suppose to keep them clean was a no show. That won’t happen again. Promise.

Please understand there is not another track owner/promoter that would write a letter like this basically telling on themselves on what went wrong, but that’s where I’m different. I want you to know I’m honest and proactive on Florida short track racing.

I’m so thankful to call you my customers and partners.

Bubba Clem

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Highlights of the racing action as reported by Bubba Raceway Park’s Media:

The Mini Stocks were up first and put on a great show for the fans. On lap 2, Ryan Zimmermann and Charlie Staats got the worst of a 5-car crash in turn 1, but both were able to continue. After the restart Travis Staats and Raymond Rogers had a battle going on for fifth while Ray Ethridge and Ray Caldwell battled up front. Rogers pushed Staats hard into turn 3 causing Staats to slide into the innocent Buddy Pope. While leading, Roberto Martin, Jr. pulled off on the frontstretch leaving himself and the fans wondering what could’ve been. After Cody Kinsey took the 11 for a spin, it was time for a green/white-checkered to end the night as a 20-minute race. The 21X of Ray Caldwell won, closely followed by Travis Staats after a spectacular run down the frontstretch to beat Ray Ethridge, Ryan Babcock brought the #9 home in fourth, and Arnold Perkins rounded out the top 5. In tech, however, Travis Straat’s 1AR was found illegal therefore moving Ethridge to 2nd, Ryan Babcock to 3rd, Perkins to 4th, and Nick Kerr into the top 5.

The moment than arrived for the Late Models to take to the clay for a $5000 reward in the inaugural Mike Peters Open. There was no winner of the B-main because Bubba the Love Sponge said to let them all race. A 28-car, 30 lap feature for the Late Models had the fans on their feet as Bubba’s Cream Machine paced the field. Phillip Cobb drew pole and before he could make use of it he found his car sideways, along with “Catfish” Keith Nosbisch, Jason Davis, and Jim Cryer while 24 others tried to make evasive action. On lap 2, Chuck Chitty got loose and Johnny Collins and Dillon Wood found each other spinning and brought out the yellow. As the green came out for the restart, Christian Augspurger pulled low on the track and the #35 rested there before pulling into the pit area for the night. While Ivedent Lloyd, Jr. dominated, Tyler Ivey and Keith Nosbisch worked their way up from the middle of the pack. Ivedent Lloyd, Jr. was half a lap away from taking another win at Bubba Raceway Park when Wood, Brandon DeWitt, and Shan Smith had a meeting in turn 1. As Lloyd passed them, contact was made with the left rear of Lloyd’s #21, cutting the tire. But, Lloyd would stay out for the green/white-checkered. Tyler Ivey smelled blood and never hesitated to poke the 47 in there and he took the lead from Lloyd in turn 1. Ivey would take the win in the Mike Peters Open while Keith Nosbisch took 2nd, Dillon Wood beat Lloyd by a nose for 3rd, and Adam Bedenbaugh was 5th.

The Amsoil V-8 Thunderstocks had a 20-lap, $500 to win feature and all 24 drivers wanted the dough. On lap 2, Luke Sadler and Eddie Lentz spun on the backstretch, bringing out the yellow. The intense battle at the front was between Brian Shea, Ray Wheeler, Jason Gamble, and Chad Scranton. On lap 16 the hard-charging Jonathan Appleby met the frontstretch wall in his #60 machine and that was all for Appleby. However, Chad Scranton had a deflating tire and he pulled it off track and to the hauler. That left the battle at the front to Jason Gamble, Ray Wheeler, and Brian Shea. Gamble held on for the big win with Ray Wheeler in 2nd, Jason Blackmer in the 3rd spot, Mike Cobb in the 4th position, and Brian Shea rounded out the top 5. With Gamble’s win it put the Certified Automotive Repair team in victory lane for the first time and everyone was ecstatic over it, especially team owner Eddie Tillander, a great supporter of Bubba Raceway Park.

Race Results for 1st Annual Mike Peters Open
Friday May 13th 2011

Late Models
47 Tyler Ivey
02 Keith Nosbisch
1W Dillon Wood
21 Ivedent Lloyd Jr.
26 Adam Bedenbaugh
71 Bo Allen
11 Austin Kirkpatrick
22 Brandon Cameron
4 Billy Boyd Jr.
46Pp Darrell Padgett
5M Sean Meeks
5K Ryan Mitchell
99 Shan Smith
24 Dennis Williams
2X Phillip Cobb
49 Justin Tilton
1A Jim Cryer
59 David Browning
311 Kenny Monohan
145 Jason Davis
33 Jeff Mathews
2 Brandon Dewitt
07C David Clegg
1* John Kohler
35 Christian Augsperger
3K Kyle Vansickle
5C Johnny Collins
66 Chuck Chitty

Mini Stocks
21X Raymond Caldwell
21 Ray Ethridge
9 Ryan Babcock Blackmer
55 Arnold Perkins
75 Nick Kerr
47 Tim Zackery
11 M Megan Myer
09 Charlie Staats
22 Raymond Rogers Woodall
7M Roberto Martin Jr.
9T Tim Smith
12 Jimbo Bird
75H Stephen Hohlbaugh
81 Buddy Pope
29 Chris Zimmerman Appleby
9B Sean Babcock Zachery
11K Cody Kinsey
53 Brittany Yates (DNS)
1AR Travis Staats (Disqualified Tech)

V8 Thunderstocks
27G Jason Gamble
27W Ray Wheeler
39 Jason Blackmer
24 Mike Cobb
19 Brian Shea
09 William Edwards
18 Chris Watson
47 Daniel Keene
3W Vaughn Woodall
26 Jody Wells
31 Mike Tyre
42 Roy Bare
73 Danny Fletcher
27S Chad Scranton
60 Jonathan Appleby
5W Johnny Zachery
14 Tim Matheu
64 Jonathan Gillette
69A Mark Trexler
15 Luke Sadler
121 Eddie Lentz

Next Race is Saturday, May 21st 2011 – Night of Thousands!
$1000 to Win V8 Thunder Stock Race
$1000 to Win Mini-Stock Race
$1000 to Win Gladiator Race