Weekly column from Track President; Matthew Becherer
When the 2019 Ford Championship Weekend commences November 15, we will once again be crowning champions in each of NASCAR’s three national series for the 18th straight year. It has become a custom in South Florida and in the industry, the longevity of which will likely never be seen again.
In 2020, we will be returning to our roots in a way, as our NASCAR weekend moves up to the sixth race of the Cup Series schedule, and is run on March 22. It was just one part of the sweeping changes to the 2020 Cup Series schedule announced by NASCAR earlier this week, which also includes Daytona’s July race moving to the final regular season slot in August.
For those of you who have followed auto racing and our venue for quite some time, this new date might have a familiar ring to it. It is a similar time of the year that the NTT INDYCAR Series ran at our facility from 1996-2008, and it is the same time period that NASCAR ran its Gander Outdoor Truck Series race from 1996-2001. This stretch represented a time when we were first forging our identity in the local community and in NASCAR circles.
Just seven years into our existence, we became known as the championship site for NASCAR, and will hold on to that prestigious spot through the 2019 finale. It is a moniker with which we take great pride and feel a certain responsibility to the South Florida community and the sport. By the outpouring of responses across many platforms, it is apparent that we served in this capacity very well.
But this has been about more than us and championships. It is about the local community, business leaders and the fans who have supported us through all of the years, and have made the championship event what it has become. To have it for 18 years in a row says volumes about everything we have been able to accomplish working in unison. In a way, we all have become stewards.
Now we transition to the most fervent time of the year for events of all types in South Florida. For many years March has been known as “Super Season” in this area, hosting events of all types, including the Miami Open and the Florida Derby in the sports world, and Calle Ocho and the Ultra Music Festival outside of the sports realm, among many others.
It is a badge of honor of sorts to be included in this impressive lineup, which attracts not just the local residents, but the plethora of visitors who flock to this area during this time of the year. It’s exciting to once again be a part of this as we get to show off what a tremendous facility we have, and how great the racing will continue to be in the spring.
Spring racing is what Ralph Sanchez envisioned when he founded our track in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992. This vision now comes back into focus.
One thing about NASCAR is that no matter when your date falls, it is not referred to as a race weekend, but an event weekend. And that’s what NASCAR has been about and will continue to emphasize. It aligns perfectly with the overall aura of Miami and it’s what we promise will be a large part of our weekend in our new time slot.
The 2020 season will mark the 25th anniversary of our track, and this historic landmark will undoubtedly be celebrated during the course of the weekend. There have been numerous memories which have been formed by the many fans who have come through our facility during the course of this quarter century. It will be a chance for all of them to reconnect with their roots as much as it will be for us.
Despite the change of date for 2020, NASCAR remains a crucial part of our identity and who we are. And it will be here for many years to come and will continue to be a key element in both the content at our track as well as the economic benefit that it has infused locally since 1995.
Homestead-Miami Speedway will also continue to serve as the epicenter of racing here in South Florida, a role which we have relished for quite some time. Whether its hosting NTT INDYCAR Series races for many years or IMSA events, people in the industry know that our track is synonymous with racing of all types in South Florida, regardless of the discipline.
Some of NASCAR’s greatest accomplishments and historic moments have been played out at Homestead-Miami Speedway, many of which have come since staging the championship races in 2002. Tony Stewart’s epic comeback in 2011 and Jimmie Johnson’s five straight titles (2006-10) followed by his record-tying seventh championship in 2016 are just a few of them. It also included the final full-time rides of some of the most iconic drivers of this era, including Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Change is a part of the sporting world. What we have been able to accomplish for this long a period of time is truly remarkable and somewhat unthinkable, especially when there are so many venues vying for the opportunity to host a championship event – no matter the sport.
So right now our focus is squarely on staging another fantastic Ford Championship Weekend this November, and ensuring that every fan who comes to Homestead realizes what great hosts we are. After that, while the time of the year moves to March, the racing will be as competitive as always and the pageantry as colorful as ever.
- Matthew Becherer