Senoia's WoO stop special one for Clanton
By Kayla MayWorld of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series
The World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Model Series roll into Senoia (Ga.) Raceway for its inaugural visit Saturday, but when Shane Clanton pulls into the pits it will be far from his first time at the 3/8-mile bullring.
For Clanton, 41, of Zebulon, Ga., racing has been a family tradition stemming from the head of the household, his late father Billy Clanton, a hard-charging southern racer and car builder. The family of six would load up and head to a racetrack three nights out of the week when Shane was growing up — and the destination on Fridays was Senoia, which on Saturday honors the Clanton clan’s patriarch with the running of the third annual Billy Clanton Classic paying $10,025-to-win.
“From the time all of us siblings were born, racing has been in our blood,” said Clanton, whose father passed away at the age of 52 in 1999. “My dad worked directly out of the back of our house, where he would build cars for customers. When we would get off the school bus the first thing we wanted to do was head to the shop … we weren't worried about doing our homework. The main thing he taught us was that you get out of it what you put into something. If you don’t put hard work into it, you won’t get anything out of it.
“If it wasn’t for my dad, we probably wouldn't be doing this.”
Bill Massey, the current track promoter at Senoia Raceway, started working at the track in 1969. He has been around the Clanton family for more than 40 years and has watched as Shane, along with his brothers Rusty and Joey, have made a name for themselves in the racing industry.
“When I was an official at Senoia they were just little guys coming to the racetrack with their Dad,” Massey said. “They would be out there working on the car like a grown man when they were 6, 7, 8, 9 years old. They would be out there running around with jacks, tire wrenches, lug wrenches and everything else, just working like a NASCAR pit crew with their daddy. They would be running around with little grease rags out of their back pockets. Their dad taught them from young ages about racing.”
Rusty and Joey had successful asphalt racing careers. Joey Clanton went on to race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series before hanging up his helmet to focus on his son’s racing career. Rusty Clanton operates an auto shop for legends race cars and helps coach a new generation on the track, including his nephew Christopher.
Despite their different surface preferences, all three Clanton men have been able to enjoy a race at Senoia, one of their father’s favorite tracks, as the track has seen both asphalt and dirt throughout its existence.
The track Billy knew was red clay and high-banked. In the 1990s, the track was asphalt for Rusty and Joey, and in the 2000s it returned to its red-clay roots. More recently, Senoia Raceway has adopted an interesting look and unique feel for the drivers with a “gray gumbo” clay surface.
“When you walk up and look at the track you think it’s asphalt or concrete,” Massey said. “It makes for a great multi-groove track. It’s not follow-the-leader, and that’s what our fans love about it. It maintains the moisture really well, and it’s really easy on tires. It also puts the driver back in the car. When I say that, it’s not all about putting it on the floor, or putting it on the mat and just turning left. It takes a lot of skill for the driver to set up the car off the corners a little bit and drive them a little bit different.”
Senoia Raceway held the inaugural Billy Clanton Classic in 2015, the same year of Billy’s induction to the Georgia Late Model Hall of Fame. That year also marked the first season the track had seen Super Late Model racing in nearly 30 years because of the changing track surfaces.
“The (clay) there makes a big deal. There is not a distinct line of where you need to be," said Clanton, whose five overall victories this season include two on the WoO tour (Volusia Speedway Park and Cherokee Speedway) and two at Senoia (a weekly event on March 18 and the Ultimate Southeast Super Late Model Series-sanctioned Spring Classic on April 22. “When the (WoO) series is there, the line will change throughout the night, so if you don't keep up with it you will be left behind. It’s just a unique place in its own.”
Clanton, who currently ranks fifth in the WoO points standings, will attempt to maintain his undefeated record in the Billy Clanton Classic. He won his father’s event in 2015 when it was run under Schaeffer Oil Southern Nationals sanction and in ’16 when it was unsanctioned.