Jimmy Haynes, a rising star from Tarpon Springs in Sprint Car racing, died after a crash in a race at Phoenix 12 years ago, and Sunshine Speedway has hosted the memorial race in his honor for all but one year since.
But unless some major changes are made, Saturday night was the last time the Jimmy Haynes Memorial will be held at Sunshine, and the last time Sprints will burn rubber on Sunshine's asphalt.
Relations between the track and the Tampa Bay Racing Association, the sanctioning body for local Sprints, had been strained because of the dwindling Sprint Car count. Last year, five Sprint races were scheduled at Sunshine, but this season the track took a wait-and-see attitude. Saturday night only 11 Sprints made the show, and the future looked dim.
"I'm embarrassed for Jimmy's mother (Pat Haynes), and I'm embarrassed for myself," Sunshine promoter and general manager Frank Hill said, after declaring an end to Sprint racing.
Asked about the low car count, TBRA president Don Rehm said, "You'd understand, if you had been watching us the past few weeks. We've lost motors, cars have flipped. . . . We just can't recover quickly enough."
Hill speculated East Bay Raceway in Hillsborough might be diluting Sprints at Sunshine, but Rehm said only 11 Sprints were racing at East Bay the same night.
In their last race, No. 99 Larry Tyler snatched the lead from No. 32 Dennis Hood on the fourth lap and cruised from there. On Lap 13, rookie Kipp Beard moved ahead and made slow gains on Tyler's long lead, but never close enough to really challenge. It was Beard's first race in the fastest short-track class around. However, Beard has been involved with racing all of his 21 years. His father, Clyde Beard, is the long-time track photographer at Sunshine, and Kipp has moved from Karts to Midgets and now to Sprints. Car owner Mac Steele, who obviously was pleased, said Kipp will remain in the driver's seat.
NOTES: In Mini Stocks, Pinellas Park's Jay Zolciak, who bought his car from last year's champion Ronnie Larson of Clearwater, drove his No. 69 from 12th to take the lead away from tough Mary Green, No. 11 also of Clearwater. No. 70 Marty Neikens of St. Petersburg was third.
In Open Wheel Modifieds, 1996 champion Luke Hill, No. 41 of Safety Harbor, out-dragged No. 00 Robert Yoho of Pinellas Park, after a restart on the last lap to take over the lead and the win. No. 47 Butch Yoakum was third.
In other action, 1996 Street Stock champ John Makula, No. 27 of Safety Harbor, picked up his first win this season, followed by No. 13 Mike Leacock of Seminole, and No. 2 Robert Crisp of Clearwater. Leacock won in Figure 8s, while No. 39 Randy Larson of Pinellas Park was second, and No. 5 Chet Senokossoff was third. No. 51 Donnie Hines of St. Petersburg beat No. 42 Dave Tennis of Pinellas Park in Oval Drags, and No. 90 Mindy Sutherland was tops in Women's Enduros.