Palm Beach County Mayor Maria Sachs raced to throw her support behind a plan for a drag strip and perhaps other types of motorsports on a 128-acre, county-owned site south of State Road 80 at 20-Mile Bend.
“I think this is the highest and best use for this land,” Sachs said during a Palm Beach County Commission meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5.
The track could replace the Palm Beach International Raceway, also known as the Moroso Motorsports Park, which closed in April 2022 after nearly 60 years, much to the dismay of local and regional racing enthusiasts. Located on the Beeline Highway west of Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter, the former raceway was the only such facility in southeast Florida.
The first step for a motorsports park near 20-Mile Bend would be for the county to put together a request for proposals (RFP) that would consider all potential uses for the property, which commissioners directed staff to do.
“I think we owe it to the people of this county to request information as to replacing that type of raceway,” said Sachs, who credited the Skip Barber Driving School classes taught at the old raceway for keeping her children safe as they explored the need for speed. “We owe it to the kids in our county to look into this.”
However, before it even gets rolling, the project could become mired in the area’s rich, wet Everglades muck, and the dreamed-of sound of racing engines could be drowned out by the voices of angry residents in the Arden neighborhood, located only two miles away.
At an Oct. 16 town hall hosted by District 6 County Commissioner Sara Baxter, several Arden residents expressed their concern about the jet-like roar of dragsters thundering down a quarter-mile asphalt track so close by. They noted that they already can hear the popping of gunshots from the Sheriff’s Office Training Center firing range adjacent to the proposed location.
Commissioner Mack Bernard said this month he would support looking at “all the options” — which could include dirt bikes and off-highway vehicles (OHVs) — but added that a “sound study” to ascertain noise levels related to a drag strip would be crucial.
West Palm Beach resident Tyler Glock, a proponent for off-road racing, told the commissioners that a 2013 study found that the land at 20-Mile Bend would be well suited for OHV racing and mud sports, but the soft, wet soil would make it impossible to construct a track smooth enough and durable enough for high-speed drag racing without spending millions to “de-muck” the land.
“You’re assuming that you can lay down a half mile of concrete across swamp land, which isn’t even possible,” Glock said. “Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste any more of our time.”
In fact, the two-year-old National Motocross League already has submitted a business plan to the county to use a portion of the site for various forms of off-road racing and recreation. In its proposal, the NML said it would welcome drag racing at the same location.
Holding out for heavy-track racing at 20-Mile Bend “doesn’t make sense,” Glock said, urging the county to let the NML project move forward.
All this comes after months of Baxter, who represents the area, pushing for a 200-acre OHV park in The Acreage and the use of a portion of the county’s Glades Airport in Pahokee as a temporary drag strip. Both efforts failed.
Meanwhile, in November, investors won initial approval from the St. Lucie County Commission for a 629-acre motorsports racing complex that would include a four-mile racetrack, a one-mile go-kart track, an off-roading track and multiple clubhouses.
P1 Motor Club, though private, would be open to race teams and corporate events. The planned club faces several more hurdles — including noise and environmental concerns — before gaining final approval.
Madelyn Marconi, who has become an advocate for racers since the old raceway’s closure in 2022, said she does not see P1 as competition for the potential 20-Mile Bend project.
“It’s a country club for rich people,” said Marconi, whose husband Corey Zaron is a semi-professional bracket-racer. “The people I’m speaking for are not rich people. They just love motorsports.”
And the interest in returning racing to the area is gaining traction, she said, noting that she has been asked to be part of the 14th annual Supercar Week in West Palm Beach (Jan. 6-14) and to take part in a roundtable hosted by Discover the Palm Beaches, the county’s primary tourist marketing group.
Marconi said she also plans to have a web site up by Jan. 15 dedicated to the cause.
“I can personally say there is a huge void in this county,” she said. “This property could sincerely be used as a motorsports facility to bring family and friends out there to race and just have fun. Just the same way we did at Moroso Motorsports.”
On top of that, “it will be helpful to our small businesses,” she said. “It’ll bring tourism revenue into this county. Drag racing is alive and well, and there’s a lot of money in it.”
The National Hot Rod Association, the governing body for drag racing in the U.S., has sent a letter to the county commission supportive of a new track.
With the county facing a $732 million funding shortfall over the next five years for projects already planned, Vice Mayor Maria Marino and Commissioner Gregg Weiss joined Bernard in saying that they could conceivably support the plan but only if the lease on the land was the county’s sole contribution. Developers would have to be responsible for de-mucking the property, if necessary, as well as construction, management and all legal liability, which can be considerable at such a venue.
Baxter, whose husband and three sons are involved in off-road motorsports, said she expects the site to be used by drag racers and OHV enthusiasts.
“It fits the most amount of uses into this property to serve the most amount of people and have the largest economic impact in the county,” she said. “There is a huge need out there.”