It’s not often that someone can come up with a dragstrip that Josh Peake has never even heard of, but to his amazement that’s exactly what happened when Kevin and Cody McDaniel telephoned Peake and told him they’d just purchased the old Powerhouse Dragway in Florida.
Amazingly, Peake drew a complete blank, and wasn’t really even familiar with any of the many names the track had been called over the years. Neither did its location of Fountain, Florida, help in any discernible way. “I finally asked them to throw me a landmark, and when they told me the track was located north of Panama City, I at least had a general location,” laughs Peake.
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #183, the Sportsman Special Issue, in July/August of 2023.]
With a multi-decade career in drag racing, most notably as IHRA’s longtime Southeast director, Peake had finally encountered a dragstrip that had completely flown under his radar, and as fate would have it, he began 2023 as the track’s brand-new general manager. This new endeavor all happened pretty fast and seemed to fall perfectly into place, and it initially began when the McDaniel brothers wanted Peake to come take a look at the track and discuss getting the facility sanctioned.
The three men hit it off and became fast friends, and the brothers began leaning on Peake more and more for general advice regarding racing operations, and also started inviting Peake to travel from his native Columbia, South Carolina, on a regular basis to assist them with all their big events. It didn’t take long before the McDaniel brothers realized that Peake could fill a need at their track full time, if only they could convince him to leave his lifelong roots in South Carolina and relocate to the Florida panhandle.
Peake admits that when they first floated the idea to Josh, he thought they might have just been joking around, but the brothers couldn’t have been more serious. “They told me that they seriously wanted me and my family to relocate to Florida and wanted me to manage the track full time!” After careful consideration, Peake realized that this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, and it didn’t take much convincing to persuade the family, so they relocated from Columbia, South Carolina, to Panama City, Florida, and haven’t looked back.
The facility he now manages is among the finest eighth-mile dragstrips you’ll ever come across, completely refurbished after the McDaniel brothers renovated it and reopened the track under the moniker North Florida Motorplex. “Kevin and Cody have spent in excess of 2 million dollars in upgrades; everything they did was over and beyond what was necessary,” says Peake.
He’s not exaggerating either. Just walk into the bathrooms and you’ll find polished ebony sinks and toilets! The concessions building features indoor dining, while open-air dining is offered in the VIP suites found on both sides of the track. The suites also feature as many as six large televisions on each level that are broadcasting college football games. “College football is huge down here, so you can actually sit in these suites and enjoy cold drinks, drag racing, and football all at the same time,” says Peake.
The AMA/AHDRA All-American motorcycle drag racing series visited here in 2022, and returned to kick off their national event series at North Florida Motorplex in March. Fans of Pro Modified doorslammers enjoy the Alabama-based Southern Nitrous Racers Association, which visits NFMP several times per season. “We also have a robust points payout for our bracket racers, which awarded over $60,000 last year, including $22,000 that went to our Super Pro champion,” says Peake.
The track is sanctioned by the new World Drag Racing Alliance (WDRA) of which Peake was instrumental in launching. A total of 12 points bracket races are scheduled across six weekends in 2023. “We don’t quite have the population down here to hold successful one-day bracket events, so all of our bracket races are double events,” Peake says. “It’s so much better for the racers when they can show up on one weekend and have two separate point races. By doing that we’ve been able to pull cars from central Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.”
Tons of small-tire races are on tap this year, along with the Carolina N/T series, which will return in 2023 after a very successful outing last year. Peake and his right-hand man, Justin Parrish, are also anticipating another barn-burner Halloween race featuring triple $5K bracket races, a High Roller Race, SNRA Pro Mods, jet cars, trick-or-treating, along with a costume contest.
The potential for NFMP to expand is enormous, and so much more is already in the works, including plans for a playground for the children, and even concerts. “Coca-Cola is a sponsor here and they’re interested in doing a Coca-Cola Concert series. The idea is to build a stage and just leave it intact; it would be an open-air venue where fans can come and bring their own chairs and coolers and enjoy live music. In this business, you need to be ever-evolving and coming up with new stuff,” concludes Peake.
North Florida Motorplex is perfectly situated for year-round operation, while offering a wide array of events that appeal to an ever-expanding fan base.