Memories of Banks County Speedway Still Linger

A field of classic “Skeeter” Super Modifieds comes off the second turn of the Banks County Speedway sometime in the mid 60s. Photo courtesy Mike Bell

By Brandon Reed
Posted in Feature 9/2/11

Out off of Highway 198 in Banks County in rural North Georgia is a former house of speed.

Hidden out in the woods, on private land and cut off from the world by an electric fence, is the old Banks County Speedway, a track that used to draw the best racers from all over the southeast.

Now it’s overgrown with pine trees.  The racing surface is covered with grass.  Instead of horsepower, the track is dominated by goat power.

But in it’s day, it was something to see.

The track was built by Tommie Irvin, long time racer and owner of Irvin’s Store near the Banks-Habersham County line, along with two partners, in 1955.  It started out, as many tracks of the era, with a back field and a friend with grading equipment.

Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Tommie Irvin opened the Banks County Speedway in 1955.  Photo courtesy the Irvin family

“I had two partners, my brother and Sheldon Gailey, chairman of the county commission down here.” Irvin said. “I had the land, and Sheldon had a brother in the grading business, so we built this track to race on Wednesday night.”

But the Wednesday night shows didn’t work out too well, leading the track to take on the famed Toccoa Speedway head-to-head on Saturday nights.  Eventually, an agreement was struck with the management at Toccoa to run on alternating Saturday’s.  But according to GRH.com’s Mike Bell, such situations often didn’t last long.

“They’d get into agreements for one to run on one night, and the other on another night,” said Bell, “and that would last until one or the other wanted to run something special.”

The track brought out some of the big names of the day.

“Gober Sosebee was a regular, NASCAR champion Jack Smith, Ed Samples, the Flock boys were there once or twice,” said Irvin. “The biggest drivers we had was the crowd out of Chattanooga, which included Harold Fryer, Freddie Fryer, Friday Hassler, Freddie Smith.  We had the biggest drivers going.”

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