Racing at the 44-year-old dirt track in Woodstock will begin Saturday night — a week earlier than planned — because of the demand from both drivers and fans.
Mia Green, the daughter of Mickey Swims, who has owned the track since 1976, said there were a record number of drivers on hand last week when the track opened for practice.
“We had 102 race cars, and that is the most we have ever had for an opening practice,” said Green, who serves in a variety of administrative roles at the track, including guest relations and marketing. “That tells us that all the racers are ready to race.”
Green said the racing season usually begins in March, but the weather has been poor over the last several years. When track officials began planning the 2013 season, they decided to open the season with the Short Track Spring Champions on Saturday, followed by the first points race April 20.
After seeing the turnout for the first practice, organizers decided to move opening weekend up to Saturday.
“My dad decided to actually start our race season early after such a big practice,” Green said. “He just felt like he owed it to the drivers and the fans that came out to show support. They were ready to race, so he decided to start the season early.”
While the first points race remained April 20, there will be plenty of excitement with a full race program.
Grandstand admission is $10 for adults, with children ages 9-17 admitted for $6 and children ages 8 and under free. Trackside tickets are available for $17, and pit passes for $25.
Fans are able to get two different experiences at the track, depending on if they sit in the grandstands or tailgate trackside. The grandstands are family-friendly, and alcohol is prohibited. Those who tailgate, however, are welcome to bring their own alcohol, although the track doesn’t sell it.
Green said she has noticed a shift in attendance over the past several years. She was 6 years old when her parents bought the track, and she has been working at Dixie in some fashion since she was 12.
“It used to, back in the ’80s — it was the same crowd every Saturday night,” Green said. “You could pretty much count in the first three or four rows up top to be your same crowd. But in the last 10 years or so, Dixie has become more of a tourist attraction. You don’t have to be a race fan to enjoy a night out at Dixie. It’s good entertainment. It’s an affordable value for the whole family to come out. That same family might not come back for a couple weeks.”
Green said she has heard other comments about a visitor not needing to be into racing to enjoy the Dixie experience.
“It’s nothing like NASCAR,” she said. “It’s a live event. You never know what is going to happen. There is a movie theater on every corner, but there is only one Dixie.”