If you like racing – and at Florida Fun Travel, we do – Highlands County is the place to be during the month of March. There’s a different event nearly every weekend. Three are at the world famous Sebring International Raceway and one is at the nearby Avon Park Mower-Plex.
There are high-intensity events like the Mobil One 12 Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts. That event has been going on for nearly 70 years and draws fans and competitors from all over the world. There also are two vintage sports car racing events that bookend the month. These are great fun, but are a bit more laid back for folks who want to relax without the massive crowd.
The Snowbird Nationals lawn mower races come to the Mower-Plex on the second Saturday of March each year. This is the one referred to as ‘The Big One.’ It is the largest event of the season for the North American Society of Grass Racers and Sod Slingers – NASGRASS.
Drivers and mowers from all over the United States and even England are expected to descend on the Mowerplex for “mower racing mayhem” this year. Organizers say they anticipate more than one hundred mowers and drivers to battle it out.
To help them along, NASGRASS officials have revamped their dirt track for the fastest possible race weekend. The Avon Park Mower-Plex was the first for-purpose lawn mower racing facility in the United States. In addition to grandstands, many fans bring chairs and set up between turns three and four to watch the action. They have food concessions and even a souvenir stand. The facility is off State Road 64, on the northwest corner of the Avon Park Executive Airport.
The Sebring International Raceway, meanwhile, sits on the grounds of the Sebring Regional Airport. Unlike oval track racing where fans sit in one seat to watch the action, the 3.72 mile road course has 17 turns. Fans are encouraged to walk around and see the race from many different angles.
The paddock, where the cars are parked, is a showplace for racing technology. There is easy access and fans are encouraged to walk through where they can see many of the drivers and watch mechanics working on the vehicles before they hit the track.
Let’s run down the month’s events for those who might like to make plans.
Beginning February 27 – March 1 will be the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s Sebring Vintage Classic. This SpeedTour event will be held on the historic Sebring Raceway.
Vintage race cars are at the heart of this gathering, which offers a mix of old and new. This year, Historic Trans-Am racers will join the contemporary Trans Am presented by Pirelli, to celebrate at the place where Trans Am began in 1966. The Historic Trans-Am cars will run in their own group with a Sunday “Feature Reunion” race. The International GT Series will launch its 2020 racing season that weekend at Sebring as well.
As in many such events – the cars are the stars. There will be vintage cars, including a couple of 1958 Austin-Healeys as well as Porsches, Triumphs and Camaros from the 1960s. On the other end, cars as new as GT3 Cup Porsches and Ferraris from the 458 Challenge will take part.
In addition to qualifying and sprint races, a 75 minute feature race and a 90 minute enduro will be run. There will be plenty of other track activities including The Hagerty Cars & Caffeine Car Show,
On the second weekend in March the Avon Park Mower-Plex will host the Seventh Annual Snowbird Nationals. That will run March 13-15. The three day event will feature a day of test and tuning plus two full days of racing action. Mowers and drivers pull from as far away as Michigan, Indiana, the Carolinas and Georgia to compete at “The Cradle of Lawn Mower Racing” in Florida’s “City of Charm.” These souped-up lawn mowers have had the blades removed and compete on a clay track. Some can reach speeds in excess of 60 mph on the tight oval surface.
The third weekend – March 18 – 21 – is always the Mobil One 12 Hours of Sebring. This year marks 70 years since the first sports car endurance event was held on the runways of the former Hendricks Field airbase. Since that first six-hour affair, the Sebring 12 Hours has grown into one of the best-known races in the world. In fact, it was voted America’s Best Motorsports Race in the most recent USA Today 10best poll. Dubbed SuperSebring 2020, it will feature the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge/Alan Jay 120, the World Endurance Challenge 1000 Miles of Sebring and the Mobil One 12 Hours over the course of the four day weekend. Fans begin camping out in a field across from the track on the first of March, waiting for the gates to open.
Rounding out March at the Sebring International Raceway will be the Spring Fling. The HSR competitors will take to the track March 26-29. For sports car aficionados as well as for the novice, there will be plenty to see and do. Dozens of vintage and historic sports cars and drivers turn out to run on the same raceway as legendary greats. In the past, they have even had some pre-World War II racers who showed up to run some exhibition laps, then put the cars on display for the fans.
This race weekend represents the opener for the Historic Sports Car Racing season. In addition to their qualifying and sprint races will be The Global GT Classic and RS Cup Race. The Sasco Sports IAC Race also is on this year’s schedule.
If you like sports cars, racing and the sports car racing experience – the Sebring International Raceway is the place to be in the month of March. If you like family fun and a unique racing experience, we suggest the Avon Park Mower-Plex.
In any event, in March there’s lots for the racing folks in Highlands County.
Photos courtesy of (top) Wreckingforce Photography/Christopher Cambell, NASGRASS, Advance Auto Parts, and Historic Sports Car Racing