On Saturday, Blake Hutchinson returned to Carrabelle to stage the third annual Festival of Speed.
He now also stages speed events in Clayton, Georgia. Hutchinson said this was the best ever for the Carrabelle venue. Sixty drivers registered to race and 50 came to the meet.
The weather was, for the first time, drop dead gorgeous. The only hitch in the day’s competition was a brief interlude when a spotted hound chased a deer onto the runway of Thompson Field, where the speed trials take place. Saturday was also the first day of deer dog training for local hunters. Airport Manager Mark Nobles pursued the pair but they hastily adjourned on their own into the scrub to the west of the runway.
“We don’t want a car to make contact with a dog at these speeds,” said Nobles.
The record for Saturday, 169 mph, set by Peter Nakhla, was less than the previous Carrabelle record set in 2011, 175 mph. Still it was nothing to sneer at.
Hutchinson said the half-mile runway give racers a unique opportunity to safely open it up and test their vehicles.
On his wannaGOFAST website, Hutchinson wrote that his event “was founded in order to fill a niche in the motorsports market place. Our goal was to create a safe and controlled environment for fellow car enthusiasts to pursue their ‘Need for Speed’ without the restrictions of the standard one-eighth or one-quarter mile drag strip. We’ve taken a ‘retro’ approach to what Americana used to be and fast forwarded it into modern day times with an efficient and unique event platform.”
There are safety requirements for participants. They must wear closed toed shoes and long pants as well as a helmet certified by the Snell Memorial Foundation, or the U.S. Department of Transportation. Each vehicle must also pass a pre-race inspection.
Local businesses get a boost from the one day event. “I noticed quite a few of the (race) cars in the lot of the Franklin Hotel last night,” Nobles said.
The race generates business for local fuel stations and restaurants as well bringing more than 40 drivers with friends and family to the county.
There were about 40 people on hand to observe Saturday’s race, scattered on the grassy strip that runs next to the runway. Stooping to pick up a water bottle, Nobles said, “I have to admit, every time they’ve come, they cleaned up after themselves so you couldn’t even tell they’d been here. I wouldn’t want to do this more than a couple times a year but if it brings people to Carrabelle, it’s definitely worthwhile.”
The cost of entering a car is $99 and $25 for passengers. Spectators paid a $10 admission fee.