With the growth of 360 Sprint Car racing in Florida, drivers are looking at the Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout as a potential crown jewel event to bring the division to the next level.
The second running of the event brings back the United Sprint Car Series (USCS), but now for three days (Jan. 25-27). It’ll boast a more than $65,000 purse – the largest ever in USCS history – with Thursday and Friday’s Features paying $2,500 to win, while Saturday’s finale will pay $10,000 to win.
“Everybody is excited for that race,” said Tyler Clem, who won the Sprint Car Shootout finale last year. “It’s probably the biggest 360 race you’ll have around this area. I feel like the quality of cars that come here for this race in January are better than [what you’ll find at other Florida 360 Sprint Car events]. You have like Ryan Timms and (Sam) Hafertepe and all these guys are going to show up for that race. Guys that run 410s. The quality of the field is going to be really good, and we’ll just try to do what we did [in 2023].”
The event is already attracting national names like 2023 Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., two-time 360 Knoxville Nationals winner Wayne Johnson, and inaugural Sprint Car Shootout winners Ryan Timms and Clem, along with international attention from England’s multi-time BriSCA F1 champion Ryan Harrison and several regional stars. Pete Walton, founder of USCS, said he expects to see about 50 or more drivers, representing at least 20 states.
“You get some big names down here,” said Danny Martin Jr., of Sarasota, FL, who swept the Battle in Barberville 360 Sprint Car races in December. “You get people in the stands and get more people interested. The more people in the stands, that helps the tracks. Then, they want to put on more shows. You get names, like last year we had Ricky Stenhouse. Things like that, they hear he’s coming and you get more people in the stands and that helps the whole sport grow.
“In Florida, there are so many things to do. There are the beaches and the boats. There’s just so much stuff to do. Up north, it seems like racing is all they got in their towns. So, when they say like, ‘Ricky Stenhouse,’ there might just be a NASCAR fan that’s going to a dirt race and he gets hooked and starts bringing people and that helps the sport grow. In Florida, that’s what we need.”
The Sunshine State is set for an increase in 360 Sprint Car racing this year with the Top Gun Sprint Car Series going from a limited 360 c.i. engine to the 360-engine package already used with USCS and the American Sprint Car Series. The change puts a brighter spotlight on the Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout as it becomes a prime destination for all drivers utilizing the 360 program. It already brought USCS back to Volusia for the first time in 18 years last season and brought 360 racing to a national viewership with the race live on DIRTVision.
“It’s actually great because we haven’t had a lot of 360 stuff down here,” said Shawn Murray, a 360 Sprint Car veteran of Jacksonville, FL. “Last year was 18 years since 360s were able to race here. We’ve been wanting to do it forever. We were thinking we’re going to have to buy a 410 (Sprint Car engine) to get laps at Volusia.”
On top of racing in a bigger spotlight and for a large purse, regional drivers said they’re looking forward to race and learn from the national series drivers – an opportunity they rarely get from regional events.
“Honestly, everybody probably says this, but it’s going to make us all better drivers,” Murray added. “We’re going to be able to race with the best of the best down here where home is. All of that high prize money will attract all those guys down here. Especially with the start of Winter Nationals.”
And for drivers like Stenhouse, the race is a good chance to have fun and get some early laps before his 2024 NASCAR season begins.
“I know they’ve put a lot more effort into the event,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I’m sure we’ll have a lot of race cars there, and it should be a good time. I’m looking forward to it. My dad is getting our car put back together and going through everything, making sure our engine is where it needs to be. He’s pumped up about it, and I’m definitely looking forward to getting back down there.”
The event will help kick off the 2024 season for USCS and its Winter Heat Series, along with serving as one of the first Sprint Car races of the year in the U.S. With that, Walton said the Sprint Car Shootout has already become a Daytona 500-like event for the Series.
“It’s huge, you know,” Walton said. “It’s the biggest purse we ran for ever. We’re really excited. I think it is going to be a great event.
“It’s a great way to kick off the 360 racing season for everybody.”
For more information and tickets to the Germfree Southern Sprint Car Shootout, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all the action live on DIRTVision.