Vanishing Vehicles

Gentlemen, stop your engines. Hialeah's landmark racetrack brakes down.

For fifty years, the roar of battered, crumpled, home-made stock cars has beckoned gear-heads, racing enthusiasts and curiosity seekers from Homestead to Lantana and everywhere in between. For the weekend racing warriors who pull into the Hialeah Speedway towing their mechanical stallions on flatbed trailers every Saturday afternoon, nothing beats the rush, the adrenaline, of challenging life at speeds exceeding 70 miles per hour.

But come January, the Hialeah Speedway, bastion of South Florida's stock racing scene, will cease to exist. Once the Greater Miami Racing Association concludes its season in December, construction crews will begin razing the third-of-a-mile oval track, along with its wooden bleachers and pit area, to make way for a commercial development on the 28-acre property, located off Okeechobee Road just east of the Palmetto Expressway.

"You could be having the worst day of your life, but once you get behind that wheel, you focus on that one thing: Racing," says Ken Ammerman, a Hollywood carpenter who became a Hialeah speed demon in 1992. "I'll definitely miss it."

Seventeen-year-old driver Tommy Styer and his family journey from Hollywood to Hialeah every Saturday to race.  He started racing mini-stock cars when he was just thirteen,  says a beaming Al Styer, Tommys father, who also raced at Hialeah for more than 30 years.
Jonathan Postal
Seventeen-year-old driver Tommy Styer and his family journey from Hollywood to Hialeah every Saturday to race. He started racing mini-stock cars when he was just thirteen, says a beaming Al Styer, Tommys father, who also raced at Hialeah for more than 30 years.
Hialeah Speedway manager Andrew Ogden couldnt resist the urge  to race when he took the place over a year ago. Ogdens father,  Richard, is the owner of Tropicaire Development, the company redeveloping the race track.
Jonathan Postal
Hialeah Speedway manager Andrew Ogden couldnt resist the urge to race when he took the place over a year ago. Ogdens father, Richard, is the owner of Tropicaire Development, the company redeveloping the race track.
As fans watch the action, a mother and daughter cover their ears to drown out the overpowering din created by the cars roaring around the track.
Jonathan Postal
As fans watch the action, a mother and daughter cover their ears to drown out the overpowering din created by the cars roaring around the track.
For some spectators, racing is serious business. But for Judy Crowder racing is all about standing  by her man, driver Tony Crowder. Here,  Judy shows her enthusiasm after  her husband  wins the 100-lap Cyclone race.
Jonathan Postal
For some spectators, racing is serious business. But for Judy Crowder racing is all about standing by her man, driver Tony Crowder. Here, Judy shows her enthusiasm after her husband wins the 100-lap Cyclone race.

Al Powell III waves the flag, a symbolic salute to the Hialeah Speedways last days.
Jonathan Postal
Al Powell III waves the flag, a symbolic salute to the Hialeah Speedways last days.
Kelly Keaton (bottom), digs race cars, especially the 30, driven by her friend Bruce Moerlins Jr. Lisa Enright, the Speedways security guard for the last 21 years, keeps the gate into the restricted pit area.
Jonathan Postal
Kelly Keaton (bottom), digs race cars, especially the 30, driven by her friend Bruce Moerlins Jr. Lisa Enright, the Speedways security guard for the last 21 years, keeps the gate into the restricted pit area.
Clockwise from top left: An unidentified driver takes a smoke break. Meanwhile, Al Davis is ready to roll in his 88. Ricky Thorpe gets behind the wheel of the 15. Steve Weaver Jr. pushes his car back into the pit area after blowing a radiator.
Jonathan Postal
Clockwise from top left: An unidentified driver takes a smoke break. Meanwhile, Al Davis is ready to roll in his 88. Ricky Thorpe gets behind the wheel of the 15. Steve Weaver Jr. pushes his car back into the pit area after blowing a radiator.
A bored truck driver waits for the next wreck to tow. Ken Ammermans three-year-old son reaches for the checkered flag after his daddy wins a 50-lap race.
Jonathan Postal
A bored truck driver waits for the next wreck to tow. Ken Ammermans three-year-old son reaches for the checkered flag after his daddy wins a 50-lap race.
Steve Colon and his son Gabriel don't know where they'll go  on Saturdays once the Hialeah Speedway closes. But for now,  they enjoy the moment. The Speedway is  about kickin' back  with a cold one.
Jonathan Postal
Steve Colon and his son Gabriel don't know where they'll go on Saturdays once the Hialeah Speedway closes. But for now, they enjoy the moment. The Speedway is about kickin' back with a cold one.
Driver Ken Ammerman gives the thumbs up after his cobalt blue Chevy Camaro, aka Lil Lucy, wins a  50-lap Cyclone race. Ammerman, who met his wife at the Hialeah Speedway ten years ago, hopes to continue  racing at tracks in central and northern Florida.  But, Ammerman confesses, nothing compares to Hialeah.
Jonathan Postal
Driver Ken Ammerman gives the thumbs up after his cobalt blue Chevy Camaro, aka Lil Lucy, wins a 50-lap Cyclone race. Ammerman, who met his wife at the Hialeah Speedway ten years ago, hopes to continue racing at tracks in central and northern Florida. But, Ammerman confesses, nothing compares to Hialeah.
Metal heaps like this Oldsmobile are the norm at the Hialeah Speedway, where all that matters  is a good engine and  large doses of adrenaline.
Jonathan Postal
Metal heaps like this Oldsmobile are the norm at the Hialeah Speedway, where all that matters is a good engine and large doses of adrenaline.

On a summer Saturday, the sun begins to set, signaling the start of the evening's events. The speedway's baby-faced manager Andrew Ogden calls drivers together for a pre-race conference. In the pits, crew members conduct final inspections on race cars; checking for fuel line leaks, overheated radiators and any other problem that might cut short their night of racing. Some teams roll sleek, aerodynamic Trans Ams onto the track. Other teams are happy to race in the Cyclone division where drivers steer the mangled husks of late model GM and Ford cars stripped bare of non-essentials such as windshields and passenger seats. At the speedway, all that matters is a V-8 engine, two axles, four tires and a reckless disregard for your life.

Later, about 20 cars fishtail, bang, and careen into each other halfway through the evening's headline event: the 100-lap Cyclone race. A Chevrolet Caprice, a Buick Regal and an Oldsmobile Cutlass jockey for position through a plume of smoke at turn two. "Number 51 is driving like a madman," observes a spectator from the fourth row of the bleachers. The sparse crowd applauds when the 12 crashes into the tire barrier of turn three. After taking the lead on the 53rd lap, Tony Crowder, behind the wheel of the 18, wins the checkered flag.

 
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