From parking lots to oval tracks, grassroot drift events take place wherever the staff are willing to take them. Since Florida is only home to a handful of tracks, the southeast drift community struggled to find a legal location to hang with friends and waste away tires without police involvement. One of the tracks willing to house these hooligans and their tire smoking shenanigans was CFRC, Central Florida Racing Complex.
Starting in the empty parking lot on quiet nights, space was made where possible for the small drifting group. With a handful of cement “barriers” and a couple tires setup around the perimeter of the track, fans could get as close as they dared to the action.
Even though the track was quite small, it was the people that made this track special. Pat Goodin and Jeremy Lowe might be Formula Drift drivers now, but they all had to start somewhere, and CFRC was definitely a big help in their jump to the pro series. Thanks to CFRC, J Lowe could finally afford a shirt!
Of course, CFRC still needed help spreading the word on their love for drifting to the masses, and this is where I came in. I had just picked up my first camera toward the tail end of 2010 and I began doing some work with a little website called Sunday Slide. Patrick Konior, Chris Haskell, Steven Sawyer, Kayla Montgomery and myself began traveling to grassroot events in Florida to get people excited for these guys that were putting their hearts into what they love most. By becoming great friends with the owner, we all worked together to share all of our adventures at the track with the masses. It was through Sunday Slide that Drew, OMGDrift’s fearless leader, snatched me up and got me started writing on here!
Of course, Sunday Slide wasn’t the only media group out at CFRC. Hertrech Eugene was also out, building up hype for a small brand called “Beard Life”. Who would have thought beards and drifting would be such a good combination?
Friendship really seems to be a strong theme in the development of CFRC. Media, fans, pit crews, and drivers spent the day together, no longer separated by barriers or distaste for one another. Everyone was seen as an equal, even Eric “Bieber” Conkling, the youngest driver out at CFRC in the early days at a whomping 15 years of age.
I feel like I could talk for hours about how awesome this little guy is. All that smoke from a Justin Bieber look alike who just picked up his driver’s license!
Since CFRC is right in the center of the state, it served as a perfect location for locals as well as for those on both coasts. Locals like Marco Tellez could drive down the street in his Kermit green coupe,
while Dan Chilton could trailer his white FC a short hour and change from the west coast. With entry fees affordable for all levels of drivers, the field was always full across all driver groups.
CFRC wanted to make sure their fans were having just as much fun as the drivers, so they did all they could to keep the fans right in the action, pumping up the drivers they love so much. The energy felt at each event continued to grow and grow, despite the small size of the young facility.
Different groups of drivers unknown to me started to come and go, appearing at every other event, with each new set of cars performing better than the last. Teams such as “We” Drift brought a lot of hype to Orlando, exciting fans with their entourage of slammed, custom painted S-chassis-es.
Of course, CFRC would be just a patch of dirt without someone to get their hands dirty. Donnie Vivier, CFRC’s President, and NOS Energy Drink’s very own Rob Fleming took the short 1/8 mile racing complex and began a quest to turn the facility into a drift heaven that could be used year round for all levels of drivers.
With Rob came the NOS dream team, a group which I was proud to call my own for 2 wonderful years. While models came and went, our little group was dedicated and brought fans all we could at as many events as possible throughout the year. From video game booths to coolers full of energy drinks, we pushed to put CFRC on the map for the place to go for all your drifting needs.
Adding a splash of water for the summer events and costumes to Halloween events, the staff at CFRC do all they can to make sure fans felt right at home and never wanted to leave. With a new theme popping up monthly, there was never a dull moment for all involved.
Of course, cold drinks and pretty faces can only do so much to elevate the status of CFRC, so changes had to be made. Donnie made a few calls and soon CFRC was full to the brim with construction vehicles, ready to expand the track to a whole new level.
CFRC fans and drivers cried out for more space, and the track delivered, but not just in one phase, but two. Walls were pushed aside, the grid was moved to a more efficient location, and new grandstands were erected to accommodate more fans.
The new additions to CFRC brought a new level of professionalism that caught the attention of the XDC Pro Am series in 2011. This was a huge year for Pro Am, with drivers like Nate Hamilton, Chelsea DeNofa, Pat Goodin, and many others on the edge of Formula D.
The added grandstands were a necessity as the crowds poured in, showing the drifting community that there is more to Florida than alligators and sandy beaches. The reign of DeNofa in Pro Am kept fans on the edge of their seats as he headed to yet another victory in his trip to the top of the rankings.
Despite the growth in fame and size, the hometown favorites still knew how to show CFRC a good time. J Lowe would bring his Miata drift missile 2 hours to each event just to give lucky fans (and other drivers!) what looked like the most fun possible in a drift car.
Even after the changes the track had already made, drivers coming in too hot on entry would soon find themselves ass backwards into a wall with some spectacular results.
Drivers cried out for more room yet again, and so phase two began. As you can see, this was quite a large expansion, covering the remaining space left without pushing into the neighboring woods. A long series of right turns and a quick left hander back to start were no longer the only options for ambitious drivers.
At this point in time, CFRC’s hometown heroes had finally made it to the big show. Pat Goodin, Chelsea DeNofa, and Jeremy Lowe started their 2012 debut in Formula Drift, the same year CFRC finished their huge expansion. With the big show finally making its way to the southeast, CFRC wanted to give the pros a great, big welcome party. And boy was it a party, with the drivers pushing harder than ever, using every inch of the growing facility.
Excitement levels were at an all time high, with both local and iconic faces making appearances throughout the hot afternoon.
With hints being dropped throughout the week that Formula Drift drivers would be making an appearance, fans were beyond excited when Michael Essa shot out like a cannon in his BMW with a tail of smoke engulfing Orlando’s sky.
Kelsey Rowlings, shown riding the wall in her pink S14, has been pushing herself harder than ever to show that she can hang with the boys, making the trip from Gainesville to Orlando for almost every event CFRC hosts. Boy or girl, young or old, CFRC continues to see great drivers come back time and time again to test their driving ability.
As CFRC looks to the future, one thing won’t be changing anytime soon. CFRC started, grew, and thrives off of heart, poured into every inch of the track that nobody heard of just a handful of years ago. Drifters have struggled to find a home, looking to the streets as the only way to enjoy their passion, but thanks to Donnie, Rob, and the family at CFRC, they have finally found their place.
Rob and Donnie continue to work together, attempting to bring the next big idea to reality at their special creation. As long as the heart continues to lead them on their journey, only good things can continue to happen in the outskirts of Orlando, Florida.
Find Central Florida Racing Complex on Facebook and come out to one of their events sometime soon and I promise you will enjoy every minute. I know I always have!