Senoia Raceway Getting Back To Its Roots

MinterMug

Rick Minter

By Rick Minter-Guest Columnist
Posted in Columns 12/24/09

Down here in the real world, around my home county of Fayette, the racing buzz isn’t about Jimmie Johnson or Danica Patrick. It’s about the layer of clay being applied to Senoia Raceway.

Up at Glenn and Cheryl Morris’ muffler and sign shop in Fayetteville, Glenn, the veteran Late Model driver, is making plans to return to the track where he started racing years ago, the same track where his father, the late Bob Morris, once was one of the few faithful Ford chauffeurs in the Chevy-dominated starting fields.

Cheryl has seen hundreds of races in her 20-something years alongside Glenn, but none on the clay banks at Senoia.

What Glenn knows of and what Cheryl has only heard about are the glory years of the track, located just off Ga. 16 in Coweta County.

In the 1970s and ‘80s, Senoia’s red-clay high banks offered some of the best entertainment around, racing or otherwise. Promoter Hence Pollard, his wife Reba and their staff were masters at making the place fan and driver friendly.

A recent photo shows that Senioa Raceway is well on it's way to returning to dirt for the 2010 season. Photo courtesy www.newsenioaraceway.com

A recent photo shows that Senioa Raceway is well on it's way to returning to dirt for the 2010 season. Photo courtesy www.newsenioaraceway.com

Hence Pollard, like all the great promoters, watched his races from the grandstands, from the perspective of a fan. Rather than get embroiled in every tire and spoiler and rules controversy, he looked after the fans’ interests, while Reba kept the concession food hot and as tasty as home cooking.

On more than one occasion, Hence Pollard settled scoring disagreements by paying both drivers for the disputed position.

Once, years ago, Roscoe Smith and Doug Kenimer finished a Late Model feature side by side. The official on Smith’s side of the track called Smith the winner. The official on the other side saw Kenimer as the victor.

Pollard declared the fans the winner and paid both drivers, explaining that it was worth the extra payout to have such an exciting finish.

Once Pollard paid two drivers for second place in a disputed Sportsman race. Both drivers left happy, and Pollard explained later that it really wasn’t that expensive to make both drivers happy. He said he was going to have to pay one of them third-place money anyway and the difference in paying out two second-place purses and a second and a third wasn’t enough to be worth the worry.

After Hence Pollard died, the track was sold and eventually paved. It had a strong run as an asphalt track, but interest waned in recent years. Dirt racing has long been the backbone of short track racing in the South, and on the Southside of Atlanta, and now a new group is returning the old track to its red clay roots.

The new promoter, long-time Late Model driver Jack Mills, said the interest in the track has amazed him. “We’ve had thousands of hits on the website newsenoiaraceway.com and hundreds have signed on as friends of the track on Facebook,” Mills said.

Rainy weather has hampered the process of putting clay on the track, but it’s nearly done, and plans are under way for an opening around the end of March or the first of April.

One of Senoia's dirt heroes, Charlie Mincey, roars through turn one in 1969.  Photo courtesy GARHOFA

One of Senoia's dirt heroes, Charlie Mincey, roars through turn one in 1969. Photo courtesy GARHOFA

High on Mills’ agenda is making the track’s old dirt heroes a part of opening night. He plans on inviting former Late Model stars like Roscoe Smith, Leon Archer, Jack Mills and Leon Sells to be on hand for the first green flag laps.

Mills said those drivers are true racing heroes. “They drove cars that were dangerous as hell and they raced like hell,” he said. “If it wasn’t for them none of us would be racing today.”

And he and his partners, Tony and Tim Moses, have developed a new-found appreciation for the promoters he once cussed on a regular basis.

“I’ve got a whole new appreciation for people like Mickey Swims and Charlie Edwards,” he said of the longtime Georgia promoters. “It’s all three of us can do to do what they do by themselves, and we haven’t even started racing yet.”

When it comes to long-time fans, the greatest challenge facing Mills and the Moses brothers is trying to do the paying public what the Pollards did years ago.

They’re promising to try.

Rick Minter is an award-winning sports journalist who began covering motorsports for the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1991, as well as serving as a bureau chief. Minter focused on racing exclusively from 2000-2008 . Minter and his wife Joanne live on the family farm in Inman, Georgia. In his spare time he collects and restores antique tractors and trucks.


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