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National notebook

Notes: Smoky Mountain team prepares for SAS

April 14, 2011, 3:52 pm
From correspondent, track, series and other reports
Smoky Mountain Speedway hosted NASCAR events in the 1960s. (dt52photos.com)
Smoky Mountain Speedway hosted NASCAR events in the 1960s. (dt52photos.com)

After struggling in recent years, Smoky Mountain Speedway hopes that a new tag-teaming partnership of owners can help turn things around at the Maryville, Tenn., oval. The historic track that hosted NASCAR events in the 1960s on Saturday hosts its first Super Late Model special of the season with a $5,000-to-win Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series race.

Three local businessmen assumed majority control of the track during the off-season with Larry Garner, Roger Sellers and Stanley Best purchasing a controlling interest in the facility from previous sole owner and current minority partner Kevin Coffey.

Sellers believes the new ownership team is uniquely qualified to return the track to profitability and is “determined to make this work,” he said.

“The four of us are working together and each of us brings an area of expertise to the table. Running a track like this is really just too much for a single person to take on,” Sellers added, speaking of Coffey’s courageous effort to keep the facility alive.

The Smoky Mountain Spring 50 will be the richest race since that ownership change and the co-owners hope fans attending for the first time this season will be pleased.

“It’s been great,” Sellers said in a recent interview. “Things are going our way. Everything is working out real well. Attendance has been great so far and we’ve had good car counts.

“We’re redoing the parking lots, we’re improving the restrooms and making a number of other infrastructure improvements. And we’ve put over 400 truckloads of fresh clay on the track.”

The track plans to host one regional touring series and one NeSmith Chevrolet-sanctioned special for Crate Late Models each month, and they hope to add a national touring event next season.

“We got in a little too late to have a Lucas Oil race this year,” Sellers said, “but they’ve already told us we will have a place on their schedule next season.”

Touring events are only one part of a track’s success. Weekly shows make up the backbone of local racing.

“We are off to a good start,” Garner said. “We’re in the process of showing people we are going to race every week. We’ve had good car counts so far with our Crate Late Model class and once we establish that we can be counted on to race each week and pay a good purse we believe our car counts will get even better.”

Saturday's event is the first race on the 29-year-old Southern All Star tour since the death of founder B.J. Parker, who died April 4 after a lengthy battle with cancer. — Richard Allen

TALLADEGA SET FOR HALL OF FAME WEEKEND: With NASCAR taking center stage across the highway, Talladega Short Track in Eastaboga, Ala., is also in action this weekend with $2,000- and $4,000-to-win events on the April 15-16 Hall of Fame weekend. Stacy Holmes of Munford, Ala., winner of two of three features this season at TST, and reigning track champion Tim Busha of Boaz, Ala., are among regulars expected to visiting competition at the third-mile oval. Alabama Gang member Bobby Allison, a member of the 2011 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, will sign autographs at TST from 6-7 p.m. for Friday's opener. “Bobby is a character and it is an honor for us to have him be a part of our Hall of Fame Weekend festivities,” track promoter Lynn Phillips said. “He is truly one of the pioneers of auto racing and an ambassador for the sport. We hope that the fans will turn out and show their appreciation for such a great Alabama Legend.” — Kelley Carlton

VOLUNTEER SWEETENS UPCOMING SCHEDULE: Volunteer Speedway has sweetened its special event-only schedule with a few changes coming up over the next month at the 4/10-mile oval in Bulls Gap, Tenn. First, the April 23 Ultimate Super Late Model Series event has gotten a purse boost, paying $10,000 to the winner (up from $4,000). Fastrak Southeast's Crate Late Models also run for $2,000-to-win that night. Second, Volunteer has teamed with Wythe Raceway in Rural Retreat, Va., for the Mountain Mayhem Super Late Model Shootout on May 6-7. Volunteer moved an originally scheduled $5,000-to-win event back one day to Friday, May 6, while Wythe's $5,000-to-win event is Saturday, May 7. Any driver sweeping the races receives a $1,500 bonus. — Robert Walden

MONSTER MIDWEST SERIES ON HIATUS: The Illinois-based Monster Midwest Series, which recently announced the schedule for its fourth season, will instead go on hiatus, series directors Don and Bonny Hammer announced April 7 on the series website. The Hammers cited "personal reasons" but added hopes to "continue the series at a later time." The series has run 35 of its 36 events at Illinois tracks over the past three seasons with Jason Feger of Bloomington, Ill., the winningest series driver with 13 victories. Feger (2009), Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill. (2008) and Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill. (2010) were series champions. — From track reports

SERIES SCHEDULE CHANGES: The Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event at Paducah (Ky.) International Raceway, originally set as a $20,000-to-win event on May 6-7, has been shortened to a single-day event with a $10,000 winner's purse on May 7. ... The Southern Regional Racing Series has added a $3,000-to-win event at Clinton County Speedway in Albany, Ky., on June 17. ... The Sunoco American Late Model Series added a May 21 event at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion, making that a co-sanctioned event with the Northern Allstars. ... The NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series event scheduled for April 22-23 at Delta Bowl Speedway in Tunica, Miss., has been postponed because weather has delayed track renovations, the series announced.

ODDS AND ENDS: Jim Barnett of Franklin, Ind., a car owner for Indiana Late Model drivers including Paul Crockett, Russ Petro and Roger Absher, died Tuesday, April 12. He was 74. Barnett was the father of former Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway champion Steve Barnett. ... East Alabama Motor Speedway has boosted the purse for the Super Late Model portion of the 33rd annual Alabama State Championships, paying $10,000 to the winner of the event scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 2 at the Phenix City, Ala., track, according to promoter Beverly Thompson. That's an increase of $3,000 from recent seasons.

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