Dirt-track racing at Dixie Speedway is back.
The track’s regular season has been under way for three weeks, and championships for the Econo Bombers and Super Bombers were held over the last two weeks. Now, Dixie will use the final Saturday of May to hold a demolition derby, in addition to its full racing program, which is in full swing.
“(The track) is doing great,” said Mickey Swims, the owner and president of the 43-year-old track. “I can’t believe how good it’s doing. It’s amazing. If you had asked me around Christmas what kind of year it was going to be, I would have said it was going to be a lean year.
“But the crowds have been great. We’re just thankful for it. It’s probably one of our best starts.”
For Swims, the good start to the year has been important, particularly with the track still recovering from storm damage as a result of tornadoes that cut through Cherokee County last September.
“We’re going back and redoing everything as we can,” Swims said. “We didn’t have insurance on the property damage. Our agent dropped the ball — or maybe we did, too. It got us for about $300,000, but we’re serving out of the pits, and we’re going to build back down there — maybe this year. That’s our hope. With that kind of limit, you just have to do the best you can.”
The track is making do in the infield with portable restrooms and limited concessions for the drivers and pit crews.
Though there have been limitations on facilities this year, that hasn’t stopped drivers from coming out at all. According to Swims, he has had turnouts of 130 or more cars across all divisions each weekend.
Through the first three races of the season, there are already some familiar names at the top of the leaderboards.
Three-time defending Econo Bomber champion Daniel Brewer is now racing the Super Bombers, and he leads the standings with 56 points, ahead of Andy Morris (54) and Roy Patterson (48).
Brewer finished third to Patterson in last week’s Super Bomber championship, and he has not won a race yet this season. His best finish was second, which was then followed by consecutive third-place finishes.
“It’s just being there, showing up on time and just racing smart,” Brewer said. “I try to miss the wrecks and take it easy. (Other drivers) like to win on the first lap. You’ve got 14 other laps, so if you just take it easy, you’ll finish up front every week. That’s my goal this week.”
Brewer said he was asked by Swims to move up in classes after winning three championships in a row.
“I won three championships in a row in Econo, so they asked me to move to a different class,” he said. “(Swims) just told me that I had to move up. I got my motor man (Matt Bishop), and he built me a motor, so I went along strong.”
Michael Page, who won last year’s Super Late Model crown by a wide margin, has already taken a 24-point lead in the same class with 64 points.
Page has won once and finished second in his other two races this season. Dale Thurman is his next-closest competitor with 40 points, followed by Ricky Williams (38).
“(Page) is a little better than everyone else right now,” Williams said. “We had a setback last week and weren’t as good as we’ve been at the end. We put on too hard of a tire last week, and it didn’t go far like I thought it would. I ran worse instead of better.”
Williams also pointed out that Page has had some fortune on his side over the last two weeks.
“He spun out two weeks in a row, and didn’t get torn up at all,” Williams said. “I think, the last two weeks, he got spun and nobody crashed into his car, so his luck is pretty good.”
The most lopsided racing thus far belongs to the Pony Stocks, with Shannon Ethridge leading at 62 points. Last year’s champion, Ronnie Faucett, sits fourth place with 32 points.
In the track’s remaining classifications, the points racing is far closer.
In the Econo Bombers, Eric Hamby and Shane Smith are tied with 58 points, while the gap from first to third in the Crate Late Models is just four points. Henry Ward leads with 50 points, followed by Phil Coltrane (48) and Craig Reece (46).
Jake Herrell (52) leads by four points over Rucker Orr in the Limited Late Models.