Head out to East Bay Raceway Park and pick up some race merchandise to keep the memories of the track alive after it closes in October.

It is the end of an era for Tampa residents and racing enthusiasts from around the country, as East Bay Raceway Park is set to close this fall. February marked the final Winternationals at the famed 1/3-mile dirt track, and when the racing season concludes in October the local icon will close its gates for good.

East Bay Raceway Park opened in 1977 and three generations of race fans have flocked to the warm weather to kick off the racing season. Current owner and president Al Varnadore, born and raised in Dover, has been at the helm for the last 22 years and has seen the industry change over time with costs skyrocketing, driving out the everyday people building cars in their backyards and focusing on precision and specialty-built vehicles.

As what Varnadore refers to as “the right time,” in 2019, the park entered into a purchase agreement with The Mosaic Company, a phosphate-mining company which owns all the neighboring properties. The agreement gave Mosaic the option to purchase the 28 acres in five years.

Five years have passed, and the planned sale will go through in 2024. Varnadore commented, “It is bittersweet. The cost of racing has gone up so much that the market is killing itself.”

He plans to stay around the racing scene but added that he turns 65 in May and it’s time to slow down and spend time with his grandchildren.

As for East Bay Raceway Park, Varnadore said that Mosaic will use the property as an extension to its two phosphate stacks, explaining that he has been told 3 feet will be removed from the ground surface and leveled.

While the winter months attract the most fans to East Bay Raceway Park, there is still excitement ahead for those who want to experience the nostalgia before it ends.

“Any of our Late Model and Sprint Car events are great entertainment for the family,” he said.

Lucas Oil Dirt Late Models have been an attraction at the track since 2005. He added that it was standing-room-only at Winternationals and expects an even larger crowd at the track’s ‘Grand Finale,’ a $50,000-to-win Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race that concludes the season on Saturday, October 12.

East Bay Raceway Park is located at 6311 Burts Rd. in Tampa, just off U.S. 41, and can be reached at 813-677-7223; Check out its event schedule and find more information at https://ebrp.co/.

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