Early Season Thoughts
Late Model Mark
Pinson, Alabama (March 26, 2014)
Thought it was about time to unload some thoughts from deep inside the bald head. In this Red Clay Report column I will dump some viewpoints on what I have seen, heard, and read about the early action in 2014 so far. On the national scene it sure will be busier than normal with three series, the new kid on the block, the National Dirt Racing League is sure making waves and splashing some water of concern on the well established World of Outlaws and Lucas Series. Seems some are worried that three groups is too many, maybe, maybe not. I look at the deal as a chance for more Late Model teams to make names for their teams and to make some money that may not otherwise be possible. I had the chance to make a rare trip down to the Thomas families very cool East Alabama Motor Speedway in Phenix City for the NDRL points opener, the Bama Bash. The race had what you want, a great and talented field, good racing, good car counts, and a very nice grandstand. I had a chance to talk to NDRL boss John Kennedy during the night and came away very impressed with the man and his outlook on the future. He sure has a full plate, I believe in his vision.
Then we have the two long running series, The Lucas deal sure seems solid it appears, same basic schedule, no surprise there, same joints having the same races on mostly the same dates. What this series and it's schedule tells me, that it is stable and doing well. It has no conflicts as of now with the NDRL so teams can run both and run for some very nice cabbage. The World of Outlaws schedule also seems like same old, same old. Another good sign. When this deal gets into full swing it will be interesting to see what teams follow what group, who sticks around, who drops off, what controversies for whatever reasons will no doubt pop up. The WRG behind the WoO is a strong group that has big clout, time will tell.
Down here in the South, it sure has been busy with mucho talk about tracks opening, closing, and or in some kind of weird limbo. In no order, this is what I know in the three state area near my central location here in sweet home Alabama. Up in central Tennessee, Winchester will run with Jimmy Knowlin at the helm, running a normal schedule with some nice specials. The very cool Duck River keeps getting better and better, great racing at a very racy track with former car owner Bob Harris running things, that joint rocks. Smoky Mountain, Volunteer, and 411 Speedways are on solid ground as well. Tennessee National with new owners is on track to have a very good years, the same folks who have TNR also own the super high-banked Thunderhill up in Summertown and plan to run a couple of special event shows. The ugly news is that the very long running Cleveland Speedway is done and will be developed into something other than for racing. That track had huge shows that packed the joint but apparent finacial issues have killed the joint, a giant loss.
In Mississippi, Steve Nelms has thrown in the towel at Corinth Speedway and will go racing with his family, unless someone comes in and leases or buys the joint, it will be dark. Columbus Speedway will run the whole year, good news. Magnolia Motor Speedway has a new owner, Johnny Stokes and a partner have bought the track and will run with that puppy and do well, that place is some joint, big things for that place in 14. Whynot Motorsports Park near Meridian just continues to dazzle, super good promotions, great racing equals postive results.
Here in Alabama, some things just roll along, others are in a confusing limbo. The good stuff, I'm three races in on my dream announcing job at Lynn Phipps strong Talladega Short Track. Home of the strongest weekly Late Model count in the state. Got the Ice Bowl in, a warmup race and last Saturdays Nesmith 525 Super late Model Series opener, strong crowd and car counts with some good action. Then you have the former River Valley track now named Arkadelphia Speedway under the guidance of racer Gene Norman. A track that I think will have great year, Gene has busted his toukas getting the track into shape and freshened up nicely.
Good ole Marvin Ford up at Fort Payne Motor Speedway will open his gates as usual in late April and run his normal deal, he will no doubt have good crowds and have a nice year. East Alabama will have a bi-weekly schedule with many great events and will in my view, keep on keepin' on. Now we get to some interesting stuff. First North Alabama Speedway, one of the baddest and enjoyable tracks I have ever been to, from the location to the track, this place is just flat cool. Closed for about two years since Jeff Greer left, former Thunderhill promoter Wayne Burns is now the lease holder and may even buy the whole joint. Some practices have been scheduled but have been called off due some insurance issues, that has lighted up the message boards. North Alabama is supposed to open and run weekly in early April. Then we have the way weird deal up at Moulton. After last years mind boggling success including intense racing, big car counts, standing room zoo-like crowds and then the closing due to one half of the ownership, your guess is as good as mine of what is going on. A gentlemen by the name of Shannon Gibson was going to open the joint, have practices, run weekly, have a set schedule and so on. The taint of the former track owner in peoples mind have made this deal a uphill journey even if things went smooth. So far nothing, nada, zilch. No website, schedule, news, return calls, practice, anything. Have no clue. How could a track that for years had great owners with the Crumb family, get sold to high dollar owners, be knocking 'em dead with success,get to this point? What a fill in the blank waste of a fine facilty. Over in Georgia, things look solid at Dixie, Rome, and North Georgia. Up at Boyds, Dale McDowell and some partners now own that track, have switched to Saturday nights and will run a solid docket of shows. That's it for now.