Race Fans, Race Tracks Ready For Action In Georgia

Fans turned out in droves for Speedfest earlier this year at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, GA. Photo by Allen Hastings / Southern Race Week Radio

By Brandon Reed
Posted in Columns 4/7/12

It’s time to go short track racing again in the Peach State.

Over the last few weeks, several Georgia short tracks have gotten their seasons underway, including Senoia Raceway in Senoia, GA, and Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, GA.  Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, GA gets their season started this weekend, in fact.

They join several tracks that have already gotten their 2012 season underway, including Toccoa Speedway in Toccoa, GA, Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold, GA, and Hartwell Speedway in Hartwell, GA.

Tickets will be bought.  Hot dogs and hamburgers will be eaten.  The sound of high powered engines will fill the air, along with the distinct smell of spent high octane racing fuel wafts around the track.

For a short track racing fan, no matter if it’s dirt or asphalt, there’s nothing closer to Heaven on Earth.

But there will none of these at the Lavonia Speedway in Lavonia, GA.

The 3/8 mile clay oval will sit silent, just as it did last year.  The dirt surface is cut with little ravines from a lack of care.  The backstretch wall has fallen in.  The reasons are  neither here nor there, but the fact that a speedway that was once among the most popular short tracks in the Northeast portion of the state is left to sit and rot is sad to see.

Not too far to the south sits Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, GA.  The once ultra-popular 3/8 paved oval will host only two events this year, one a make-up race in January postponed to March 31 due to weather, and an Independence Day weekend event.

Otherwise, the track built by legendary wheelman, promoter, and Georgia Racing Hall of Famer Bud Lunsford (who long ago got out of the racing business) will be left to, as a track official said, “rot into the earth.”

You can blame the problems of these two facilities on a lot of things.  But regardless of their problems, fans are still turning out to other tracks in droves.

Senoia saw a sell-out last year for their USCS Sprint Car weekend.  Earlier this season, Cordele saw a standing room only crowd for the CSA SpeedFest event.  Toccoa has seen huge crowds, along with Hartwell, and Sylvania.

The fans are more than willing to come out and support their hometown tracks.  However, their hometown tracks also need to support them.

There’s no two ways about it, we’re in tough financial times.  Fans have to careful and choose just where to spend their money, and how often.

Some tracks have responded.  Ticket prices for many tracks all over the southeast hover around $10-15 for a regular night of racing.  Fans have shown their approval and appreciation, with long lines at the ticket booth and long lines at the concession stands.

But a shrewd promoter can put on a show with such a lean budget that they can walk off with enough money to fund the next three shows.  I know, because I’ve seen it done.  And the fans never had any idea.  All they know is that they’ve seen a great show.

Some tracks understand this, and they will continue to grow.  Others haven’t, and may be in for even leaner times.

But, not all is gloom and doom.  Sugar Creek Raceway in Blue Ridge, GA is slated to reopen after being shuttered for almost two years.  In addition, word is that a major speedway that has been closed since the mid-1980s could be making a return.

The best thing the race fans can do is to continue to support their local race tracks.  We have lost so many tracks over the years that we can’t afford to lose any more.  Stock car racing was born in Georgia.  It would be a shame to lose any more of its great speedways.

Brandon Reed is the editor and publisher of Georgia Racing History.com.

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