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Red Clay Report - 2013 Highs and Lows (Read 1967 times)
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Red Clay Report - 2013 Highs and Lows
12/02/13 at 12:37pm

2013 Highs and Lows

Late Model Mark
Pinson, Alabama (December 2, 2013)

Thought is was about time to get back on the keyboard and unload some thoughts about the 2013 season here in my neck of the woods on this Thanksgiving morning. Before I get into my views of this season, I would like to give thanks, while it is around 22 degrees outside, I am warm and comfortable, I am thankfull that I am a proud American that can enjoy this sport of dirt track racing, that I have my health and a good life. With that said, in this Red Clay Report, my observations of what went down, both the highs and lows of this odd season.

Let me start with the upbeat portion, the highs if you will. In no order and it might be a somewhat ramble of thoughts.  The season started off with more speedways open than in the past, River Valley and Tennessee National cracked the gates, Thunderhill, Winchester, and Duck River also wide open. Alabama had the usual group of Talladega, Moulton, Ft. Payne,Green Valley, and others in Georgia and Mississippi doing business. I was starting my second year of announcing at Green Valley as well. Moulton Speedway had new deep pocket owners that  buzzed the locals. The owners at Moulton called and wanted me to announce but I was tied up when Green Valley was open, they said whenever I was not at GVS, to come over and call the shows alongside longtime announcer Robert Bradford. It was a dream doing two tracks. Moulton had some awesome new clay laid down that turned the place into a super racy joint, new walls, fences, computer scoring, raceceivers, and the best new thing, a great scoreboard. The racers and fans were coming out in large numbers with SRO crowds. Green Valley finally got some good crowds and getting better by the race. Talladega was having increased car counts and better racing. Ft. Payne was having one of it's better years in the stands with a number of packed houses.

River Valley had nice crowds and good racing on that smooth joint from what I heard, the car counts were not big but getting better as the area had another speedway option. Some folks approached me to help a new announcer get off the ground but I had no free Saturdays to do it. The racing itself was quite good at most of the tracks with some incredible racing, especially in the Street Stocks. Some of the summer promotions at various tracks were grandstand homeruns. The early September return of the Southern All Stars had the biggest crowd I had seen at Green Valley, a near full house. Things at most tracks were positive and then it started to unravel, and it came apart bigtime.

The lows. Things started to go downhill. First Thunderhill up in Tennessee went up for sale, Wayne Burns had  enough of the viscious slander from the internet and local racers and called it quits and the track went dark and for sale. New folks purchased it later during the year. Then in late August it got ugly. Moulton had been having packed houses with $5.00, $1.00, and free admission nights and making money to boot. The racing was great, the concessions booming, It was super special interacting with all the kids and fans and announcing large crowds. Then a minor incident on the track and a minor altercation in the pits led to one half of the ownership getting upset and coming into the tower afterwards. Then in a stunner with no warning, I was told to announce that next weeks race was canceled, ok. The I asked when we would race again, I was then shocked to hear from the owner that the remainder of the season was canceled as well. I had the very tough duty to announce to the crowd that it was over for the year! The track was on a epic roll, all the money spent for improvements wasted. I was down to working at Green Valley, but I got a call from Marvin Ford at Ft. Payne to do some shows up there.

Then it got really ugly, after that very successfull show at Green Valley, with no warning, no phone call, no hint of any doom, I heard from a buddy that he read on a social media site that Green Valley was sold for houses and shut down forever after 54 years!! I then checked the GVS website and it was confirmed, it was over. I am thankfull Dennis Harker gave me a shot at announcing, I really loved the track and staff, Dennis was good to me, it is his land and I understand he can do with it as he likes, he poured his heart and wads upon wads of cash into this great track, my only regret is that we did not have a last race to send the ol girl off in style. More upsetting stuff, it was released that Magnolia Motor Speedway had some bankrupsy issues and was later purchased by a group from California. All those issues with tracks and the continued closure of the very cool North Alabama Speedway hit Northwest Alabama racing hard.

Then in October some bright spots broke thru the gloom, River Valley was leased by a new group led by racers, the Norman family, these folks I bet will do a great job, they have renamed the track, Arkadelphia Speedway. I went to Dixie Speedway in Georgia for a Lucas show that had one of the tracks top ten largest crowds ever, that night, after the Lucas show was over, hauled the mail and hit the Super Late feature at Talladega on the way home, 2 tracks in 2 states in one night. Then I announced a Southern All Star show evening in October at Talladega. That night, I left there with a deal to announce the 2014 season at Talladega, something I wanted after Perry Holman passed away, just came some years later. I will check off another box on the bucket list by announcing the Ice Bowl, something I wanted real bad. It will be a delight to work for Lynn Phillips and staff at Talladega. Also that October night at TST, Marvin Ford asked me if I would be interested in doing a early seeason two day show at Ft. Payne, of course I said yes.

2014 is no doubt going to be a very important year for weekly tracks in the South to say the least. Even thru the lowest of lows and the high points, there are many things to be thankfull for. Happy Thanksgiving to all, enjoy the bird, savor your family as well. Please support your local track, bring a buddy, be nice on the internet, and have fun, it ain't to hard. Till next time.
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