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Lawmakers debate whether auto racing is a sport

Florida lawmakers are driving ahead with a plan to make auto racing the official state sport. Two lawmakers from the Daytona area say it an historic activity in Florida, but Regan McCarthy reports not all lawmakers are ready to wave the green flag for the plan.

Representative Dorothy Hukill says auto racing got its start in Florida.

“It really began in Florida in years going all the way back to 1903 when men and women started racing on the beaches in Volusia County. That led eventually to the formation of Nascar and we are so fortunate in our state that we have two sanctioned Nascar tracks.”

And Senator Evelyn Lynn, a Republican from Daytona Beach, who is sponsoring the measure in the Senate, says the state holds several racing records

“Five speed records were broken through 1910,   1928 Sir Malcolm Campbell established a speed record of more than 206 average miles per hour on the Florida beaches, Sir Henry Flaggler’s rail road shipped many rail roads shipped many cars to Florida throughout the history of auto racing. Florida is the only state with 3 major international speedways and more than 50 local tracks exist throughout the state with more every day.”

Hukill, a Republican from Port Orange, says the proposal would include all forms of automobile racing.

“It includes not only speedway racing, but also stock car racing, sports car racing, drag racing, midget car racing,  and carting as well as hill climbs and trials.”

Representative Rick Kriesman says he’s a big fan of racing, but he’s not convinced racing is the right choice for a state sport.  He points out that with 3 professional football teams in the state and several national champions earned at the college level, an argument could be made that football should be selected. And he says baseball is also worthy of consideration.

“Florida has a long tradition and history with baseball, going back to the Philadelphia Phillies spring training here in Florida in 1889. You’ve got 15 teams that hold spring training here in Florida. Between the Marlins, Rays and Spring Training you’ve got more than almost 5-million people who have come and visited Florida to attend one of those games.”

And Kriesman questions Hukill’s premise that racing got its start here.

It certainly might have been made famous here in Florida, but I don’t think it was invented.”

Others bought up concerns about picking a sport that many of Florida’s children wouldn’t be able to participate in because of the age requirements and cost of the sport – though Hukill responds that Floridians of all ages can participate as spectators.

And Representative Alan Williams, a Democrat from Tallahassee, points out that the state gets a big chunk of cash from golf. He says he would understand creating a resolution in recognition of racing. But Williams says he thinks the state should cool its jets on announcing symbols.

“You know, I can understand when we pick a state song that is a part of our history, we pick maybe a state shell or bird. But I think we’re maybe getting kind of carried away with some of these different state owned items, or whatever you want to call it, or designate different things part of our state. We have to be very careful with that.”

The state already has more than 20 state symbols including a state song and bird as well as a state tree, beverage and pie. And another lawmaker is proposing this session that Florida name a state amphibian. The measure to make auto racing the state sport passed a House and Senate Committee in its race to become law… in the mean time there will be plenty of cars crossing the finish line during the Daytona 500 this weekend.


Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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