Through countless transformations, Volusia Speedway Park has remained at the heart of racing
Though Volusia Speedway Park has undergone numerous transformations throughout its 52 years of existence, one thing hasn’t changed, the 12 straight nights of racing action and the camaraderie that comes with the annual DIRTcar Nationals every February.
“There are not many marquee events that you can count on,” said retired NASCAR driver and dirt racing enthusiast Kenny Wallace. “You’ve got Eldora, Knoxville, World Finals — but DIRTcar Nationals is one two-week marquee event that you can count on. You know it’s going to be there every year.”
In fact, original track owner Benny Corbin had two stipulations when he sold Volusia Speedway Park in 1982: that he be allowed to maintain it and that the marquee events, including DIRTcar Nationals, would continue to run; and so it has been.
Corbin, a Korean War veteran, first found refuge in motorsports as a racer, driving Sprint Cars and Midgets in Indiana. Corbin and his son Kent, however, left their deepest impression on the racing industry in Florida. In 1968 Corbin struck a deal on a property in Barberville, FL that housed a sandy quarter-mile course on which old jalopies raced. Seeing the greater potential of the property, Corbin created Barberville Raceway, starting the long journey to Volusia Speedway Park’s current prestige.
During Corbin’s tenure as owner from 1968 to 1982, the facility underwent multiple transformations, including a major change when the track was expanded to its current half-mile size.
Dirt racing on the fast, half-mile track ceased from 1989 to 1997 when the track was turned into a paved half-mile. But Corbin, true to his dirt roots, created a 3/8-mile dirt oval (now a go-kart track) on the adjacent property. From 1989 to 1992 Volusia Speedway Park predominantly hosted NASCAR-sanctioned races — sometimes combining asphalt and dirt racing in the same weekend.
It was during that time that a NASCAR star was born. A 27-year-old driver from St. Louis, MO named Kenny Wallace finally broke out and won his first NASCAR race at Volusia Speedway Park (then Volusia Country Speedway) after 70 races and two years of trying.
“It was my biggest win, and probably still is my biggest win of my career,” said Wallace. “That was my first NASCAR win ever. It took me 70 races — two years to win. It was just the biggest win of my life.”
After taking up more dirt racing as a hobby starting in 2005, it didn’t take Wallace long to make history at Volusia again. As he entered Victory Lane at the 2007 DIRTcar Nationals, Wallace became the only driver to win on both asphalt and dirt at Volusia Speedway Park.
“I have people ask me all the time what’s my favorite dirt track, and I honestly tell them it’s Volusia,” said Wallace. “They ask why, and I tell them it’s the very first race track on dirt that I can race seven nights a week on. I learned to race dirt at Volusia because I raced seven nights a week.”
Reminiscing about the old days at Volusia Speedway Park, Wallace recalls many of the characteristics of the ever-changing facility. “Back in 1991 it had about the same amount of grandstands. It was a really great crowd. But what I remember most was that it was on national TV. In 1991 we were racing at Volusia Speedway, and you could be in California and turn it on TV and the race was on your TV. To me that what was big; all my friends all around the United States were watching me win that race on TV.”
Although all 12 days of the annual DIRTcar Nationals may not air on traditional television anymore, race fans all across the world tune into DIRTVision to watch every lap live.
“For me it’s the start of race season. I understand that not everyone can go [to Volusia], but for the people that cannot go, they’re watching on DIRTVision.com. But they cannot stand it. They’ll start watching on Tuesday, and by Thursday they cannot take it anymore; they’re in their cars, and they’re heading to Florida for the weekend. The DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park signifies the green flag for dirt racing. This is it; it’s the start of the season, and it gives me goosebumps to return to Volusia.”
The return to Volusia doesn’t just start the racing season for Wallace and the hundreds of other racers that converge on the small Florida track; it renews countless friendships, including one in particular for Wallace.
“I have a very good friend, Kent Corbin (Benny’s son). He’s the parts man at Volusia Speedway Park weekly. We all know the rule that you can’t have a trailer taller than nine feet so that the fans can see the backstretch. Kent lends me his trailer, and we put my racecar and some of my equipment in there so I can stay in the infield and watch all the racing that goes on.”
Through the countless transformations and passionate efforts to sustain racing at a small local short track located just 20 miles from the World Center of Racing, Daytona International Speedway, Kent Corbin continues to play a part in the rich 50-year history of Volusia Speedway Park, where he was born and raised, and which he still calls home.