Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series Memories

Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series Memories

The UDTRA (United Dirt Track Racing Association) Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series grew from a respected regional series into a national powerhouse tour under the leadership of Jimmy Mosteller and Mike Swims. The two members of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame used their talents and resources to propel the series to success.

As senior vice president of the company behind Hav-A-Tampa cigars, Mosteller, who passed away in 2012, brought Hav-A-Tampa’s backing to the tour and was also a noted race announcer. Swims applied his prowess as promoter, which he had honed at Dixie and Rome speedways in Georgia. Together they helped thrust dirt late model racing into the national spotlight more so than anything else since the National Dirt Racing Association (NDRA).

The roots of the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series date back to 1990, when Swims and Mosteller co-sanctioned events with the Southern All Stars. After the 1992 season, Swims and Mosteller desired to break free from the trappings of a regional series to expand to a national-scale operation. With the cigar company behind Hav-A-Tampa backing the first points fund in 1993, the series centered its events in the Deep South, with additional forays into Texas and Oklahoma. The next four seasons the tour expanded into other states, including Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Wisconsin.

Swims earned his reputation as one of the sport’s greatest promoters from his time with the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series. He helped secure two events at the famed NASCAR short track Bristol Motor Speedway, from 2000 to 2001, which used a synthetic dirt surface. Conservative estimates placed the attendance numbers at Bristol’s inaugural event at 45,000. He also partnered the series with Trace Allee and Maverick Productions to create tape-delayed replays of signature races in front of a national TV audience.

After the 2001 season, Hav-A-Tampa ended its sponsorship with the series. The organization rebranded itself the UDTRA Pro DirtCar Series for two seasons, then the Xtreme DirtCar Series, and lastly the Stacker 2 Xtreme DirtCar Series before ceasing operations at the end of 2004.

For 15 seasons, the tour featured the best of the best dirt late model drivers waging war on ovals across the United States. It served as the forerunner of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, where Swims worked as a consultant until his untimely death from cancer in 2007.

Stars of the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series benefited from increased purses, attention, and sponsorship opportunities. That included drivers such as Scott Bloomquist, the series’ all-time winningest driver, whose status as one of the sports’ greats was cemented as the result of his success on the circuit. Ultimately, the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series helped bolster the sport’s popularity, with those effects still felt today.

10 Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series Memories, in Photos

Mike Swims (left) and Jimmy Mosteller (right) co-founded the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series. Swims brought his promotional talents, honed at Dixie and Rome speedways in Georgia. Mosteller brought backing from the company behind Hav-A-Tampa cigars as he was their senior vice president. Their efforts at the series thrusted their tour to success and earned them placement in the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame.
Senoia, Georgia’s Clint Smith won the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series first championship in 1993 (which was also sanctioned by the Southern All Stars). Because he never missed an event from 1990 to 1998, he was dubbed the “Iron Man” of the tour.
Dale McDowell, of Chickamauga, Georgia, shown here at Bristol Motor Speedway, won the first event held at the famed half-mile in 2000. However, many best remember McDowell for winning the series’ 1999 series crown on the final night, when he edged out his teammate, Wendell Wallace, for the $70,000 championship prize. McDowell’s 31 series victories ties him with Billy Moyer for second on the all-time wins list.
Billy Moyer, shown here at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway, teamed up with the Gulf Valve Service (GVS) team in 1997 and promptly took them to the championship. The Batesville, Arkansas, driver notched 10 victories that year on the series, as well as many other crown jewels of the sport.
York, Pennsylvania’s Rick Eckert, pictured in 2000 at Golden Isles Speedway in Brunswick, Georgia, won two championships (2001 and 2002). Eckert’s 18 wins on the tour ranks him sixth on the all-time wins list.
This staged publicity shot at Gaffney, South Carolina’s Cherokee Speedway during the 1996 season had Freddy Smith, of Kings Mountain, North Carolina, put out a stop sign on Scott Bloomquist’s attempt at a third consecutive Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series title. The photo op was set up by Richard Cunningham, then editor of Racing News in North Carolina. Both drivers were good-natured in their acceptance of the idea. This was surprising as this was the year that the series penalized Bloomquist points after a skirmish between the two at the now-defunct Atomic Speedway near Lenoir City, Tennessee. Smith won the 1996 crown and has 19 Hav-A-Tampa victories, tying him for fifth in all-time wins with Ronnie Johnson,
of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Ashland, Kentucky’s Steve Francis, pictured in the Mopar-sponsored, Rocket Chassis house car in 2001 at Bristol, finished second in points three times and won 16 races in the Hav-A-Tampa series. His most heartbreaking moment occurred in 2001, when he lost the championship to Rick Eckert on the final night of the season by a single point.
Wendell Wallace, of Batesville, Arkansas, shown here at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tennessee, was a prolific winner on the Hav-A-Tampa series. His 26 victories places him fourth on the all-time wins list.
A total of 189 dirt late models entered the inaugural event at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2000, with a conservative estimate of 45,000 people in the stands. Swims saw the event as the next step to increasing dirt late model racing’s prominence. Next year, with miserable weather and close proximity to Eldora Speedway’s Million, the event’s car count decreased to 89 entries and attracted a fraction of the spectators it had the year before. Regardless, many in racing still herald the dirt race at Bristol as a genius move in motorsports promotion.
Mooresburg, Tennessee’s Scott Bloomquist celebrates scoring a $53,000 check for winning the Hav-A-Tampa Shootout at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, Georgia, and a $50,000 check for the championship. No one excelled more in Hav-A-Tampa competition than Bloomquist did, with five championships and 100 victories, the most in both categories. He has 69 more wins than second-place drivers, Dale McDowell and Billy Moyer, who have 31. Only Rick Eckert won more than one series crown.