Welcome To Tennessee: Three Distinct Volunteer State Tracks Comprise This Weekend’s WoO Late Model Series Tripleheader
National Tour Set To Visit Smoky Mountain Speedway (April 26), Tazewell Speedway (April 27) & Duck River Raceway Park (April 28)
By Kevin Kovac, WoO LMS P.R. Director
CONCORD, NC – April 24, 2013 – A big, reconfigured four-tenths-mile oval. A steeply-banked, blazing-fast one-third-mile paper-clip. A sweeping quarter-mile bullring.
Three distinct tracks located in Tennessee – that’s this weekend’s hit list for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series, which invades the Volunteer State for one of the most anticipated and interesting tripleheaders of the 2013 season.
The swing kicks off on Friday night (April 26) at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Maryville, which will host the WoO LMS for the first time since 2004. The famed Tazewell Speedway will present a World of Outlaws program for the fourth consecutive season on Saturday evening (April 27) while the smallest of the three tracks, Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, will close the weekend on Sunday night (April 28) with its inaugural WoO LMS extravaganza.
To set the stage for a weekend comprised of three 50-lap A-Mains paying $10,000 to win, here are snapshots of the three tracks courtesy of some Tennesseans who know them well…
Smoky Mountain Speedway: The Home Track Of Warrior Race Cars
If you’re looking for a scouting report on Smoky Mountain Speedway from a WoO LMS traveler, Warrior Race Cars owner Sanford Goddard is your man. The venerable facility is, after all, effectively his home track.
The owner of the Warrior house car driven on the WoO LMS by Scott James of Bright, Ind., and builder of the Sweeteners Plus Racing machines campaigned by former World of Outlaws champion Tim McCreadie of Watertown, N.Y., Goddard has fielded dirt Late Models and worked with customers at Smoky Mountain for years. With his Goddard Performance/Warrior Race Cars shop in Knoxville, Tenn., less than a half-hour drive from the track, he clearly possesses some deep-seeded knowledge of the place.
But despite his many evenings spent competing and testing at Smoky Mountain, Goddard doesn’t want anyone thinking he has some secret formula for success that he’ll deliver to James and McCreadie during the running of this Friday night’s ‘Mountain Outlaw 50.’ He’s the first one to point out that today’s Smoky Mountain Speedway isn’t the same one he’s attended for decades or the WoO LMS last raced at in 2004.
“One thing about Smoky Mountain – it’s been there since the ’60s and it’s had several updates on it,” said Goddard. “It was a half-mile, they cut it down to four-tenths, and now this year they have new owners who put new walls around it and new dirt on it and changed the banking. The track’s a little bit different than it’s been in the past. It seems like the dirt’s better, it’s faster and it’s a little racier than it used to be.
“I’ve won a lot of races there with different people, but now it’s kind of a new experience for everybody,” he added. “Even though you’ve raced there all your life, everybody is going through a learning curve on it.”
The track is now under the ownership of a group that includes Stanley Best, Larry Garner, Roger Sellers and Kevin Coffey. They purchased the speedway last year and have aggressively upgraded the facility and created a standout special-event schedule, highlighted by Friday night’s WoO LMS event that ranks as the biggest show at Smoky Mountain since Rick Eckert of York, Pa., won the circuit’s only previous visit in April ’04.
“The new owners operating the place are racers besides just owners,” said Goddard. “They understand what they need to do to make it better. They’re race-oriented people and I think they’re taking the track to the next level.”
Both James and McCreadie competed in the 2004 WoO LMS event at Smoky Mountain, which came early in the tour’s inaugural season under the World Racing Group banner. Neither fared well – James finished 23rd and McCreadie did not start the A-Main.
McCreadie hasn’t been back to Smoky Mountain over the past eight years, but James has gotten a taste of the new configuration, making two appearances there in the past month behind the wheel of Goddard’s familiar green-and-white No. 1G. James finished 20th in a Southern All-Stars Series event on March 16 and failed to qualify for the Spring Nationals feature on April 13.
“We weren’t very good both times we were there, but it wasn’t the track’s fault. It was our fault,” said Goddard. “They were productive trips, though. I think we found a few things wrong with our car. Hopefully we can make the right changes and get Scott and McCreadie running good (on Friday).”
Goddard is geared up for a wildly competitive event on Friday night.
“We went (to Smoky Mountain) this year with Scott to learn some stuff so we’d be ready for this World of Outlaws deal,” said Goddard. “The local guys – like Billy Ogle Jr., Vic Hill and Randy Weaver – run good there, so it’ll be a big test for the World of Outlaws guys. I’m hoping we’re ready.”
Tazewell Speedway: A Dirt Track Like No Other
Tazewell Speedway owner Gary Hall doesn’t have to be a detective to spot someone who happens to be eyeballing his racetrack for the first time.
“Oh, I can tell immediately,” said Hall, who is in his ninth season at the helm of the famed track in the hills of Northeast Tennessee. “You can see they’re pretty much in awe.”
Indeed, viewing video or pictures of Tazewell’s monstrous banks doesn’t do it justice. A dirt-track fan or racer has to witness the scene in person – looking down from the concrete hillside grandstand or while standing at the tippy-top of the track in turn two – to fully appreciate the massiveness of those iconic hills.
And once dirt Late Models start circling the bullring at seemingly supersonic speeds – like the country’s best drivers will do this Saturday night in Tazewell’s fourth annual ‘Outlaw Sizzler 50’ presented by Tri-State Tire and Auto of Middlesboro – it’s one of the sport’s take-your-breath-away moments.
“The first thing I always say to a fan who’s never been to Tazewell is, ‘You’ve never seen anything like it,'” said the 60-year-old Hall, a former dirt Late Model racer who competed at ‘The Taz’ during his career but never raced on its current configuration (the banking was increased in the early ’90s after he retired). “There’s nothing like it around here – heck, probably just about anywhere. The corners here are banked about 31 degrees, and I think the straightaways are banked like 20 degrees. It’s definitely a unique place.
“It reminds me a lot of Bristol (Motor Speedway) – a dirt Bristol. It’s a lot of the same deal – high-banked, fast, cars just whipping around there. It’s really amazing to see a race here in person.”
Or just see the menacing track, period.
“We’ll be here working during the week and we’ll have people just stop by to look at it because they’ve never seen it,” said Hall. “It happens quite regularly.”
The fans’ love for Tazewell is demonstrated not only by the track’s strong weekly crowds but by the enormous turnouts for WoO LMS events. Last year’s World of Outlaws show, which saw Bub McCool of Vicksburg, Miss., register his first-ever win on the circuit, drew a standing-room-only crowd that Hall called the biggest in the history of the speedway.
Not surprisingly, of course, for a speedway dubbed ‘The World’s Fastest One-Third-Mile Dirt Track,’ drivers aren’t as overwhelmingly enamored with Tazewell as the fans.
“Some drivers love it and some drivers hate it,” said Hall. “It’s a fast place and you gotta be on your toes all the time. Everything happens so fast – the fans seem to like that, but not all drivers like that kind of racing.”
Two-time WoO LMS champion Josh Richards of Shinnston, W.Va., provides an almost perfect summation of the love/hate relationship drivers have with Tazewell.
“I like driving on it, but I don’t like racing on it,” said Richards, whose two career WoO LMS starts at Tazewell resulted in finishes of third (2010) and 16th (’11). “It’s fun to go out there by yourself and run laps like that, just flying around there. It’s pretty intense, pretty awesome. But because it’s so small and so fast, it’s hard to race on. There are a lot of things happening there at once, and I think that’s why a lot of racers don’t prefer it. You’re running such a fine line every second you’re out there, which definitely makes it difficult.”
That hyper-speed, on-the-edge action, though, is what makes every lap at Tazewell spectacular.
“Tazewell is what I call a ‘spectator’ track,” said Warrior Race Cars owner Sanford Goddard, who admitted that Tazewell is his favorite track. “Fans just love to see cars go around that place.”
Duck River Raceway Park: Praise From One Of Tennessee’s Best
Vic Hill has only competed at Duck River Raceway Park once in over a quarter-century as a driver, but his lone visit was more than enough to form a strong opinion of the track that sits just over an hour south of Nashville.
“It’s a great track,” said Hill, a 49-year-old dirt Late Model veteran and noted engine builder from Morristown, Tenn. “We’re sort of anxious to go back.”
Hill plans to make Sunday evening’s historic first-ever WoO LMS event at Duck River his second career appearance at the speedway. His first was just five months ago when he pocketed a $10,000 paycheck for winning the ‘Deep Fried 75,’ which closed the track’s 2012 season in mid-November.
“I’d always heard it was real slick and you needed a big spoiler and all that or you’d get beat down,” Hill said of Duck River. “Well, I decided to go there (in November), but I was complaining because it was gonna be cold and I just thought it was gonna be a crappy weekend. Then I got down there, and I’ll tell ‘ya, I was impressed.”
Though the track was just four months into its new era under the ownership of Bob and Cathy Harris, who purchased the facility in July 2012, Hill experienced a speedway that was already well on its way to big things. Hill praises the job done by Bob Harris, who has overseen a flurry of construction and upgrades, including new bathrooms, concession stands and guardrails and a fresh clay racing surface.
“He’s put together a heck of a racetrack,” said Hill, who set Duck River’s dirt Late Model track record last November but expects it to be broken on Sunday. “It’s just a real racy little place. It’s about the same size as Tazewell, except a little wider and not banked as much, and you can pretty much race all over it.
“The biggest obstacle we had to deal with down there (in November) was lapped traffic. It’s a small track and you get into it real quick. Being a small, fast racetrack, you really have to be on your toes.
“It’s got to be fun for the fans to watch, though,” he added. “With the caliber of drivers who are gonna be there on Sunday, I think it’s gonna be a helluva show.”
Duck River’s WoO LMS program will cap a huge three-day stretch of racing for Hill, who calls this weekend’s World of Outlaws tripleheader “one of our biggest weekends of the year.” The driver known as ‘The Thrill’ and his team have put special emphasis on being primed and ready to take on the Outlaws and a host of other top drivers on relative home turf.
“Last week we didn’t race just so we can get prepared for these three races in a row,” said Hill. “I like all three racetracks we’re running at. We’ve had success at all of ’em, so I’m anxious to see what we can do.
“Our plan is to run one car at Smoky Mountain (Speedway on Friday), another car at Tazewell (Speedway on Saturday), and then we’ll see what we got left and go to Duck River.”
Winning a WoO LMS A-Main this weekend – and perhaps becoming the first Tennessee driver not named Scott Bloomquist or Jimmy Owens to capture a WoO LMS event in their home state – would be a career highlight for Hill.
“When these guys roll into town and you’re dealing with all the talent that will be there, a top five (finish) would be great,” said Hill. “But to win would be just super. It would be something I’d never forget.
“It would mean so much to me to win one of these shows. With the guys who will be at these races, it’s about gonna be like a World 100 weekend for the fans in Tennessee.”
Hill has started 10 WoO LMS A-Mains since 2004, with an eighth-place finish on Aug. 20, 2008, at Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, Tenn., representing his career-best run. (He also registered the only World of Outlaws fast-time honor of his career that night.) His most memorable WoO LMS performance came in the 2010 event at Tazewell, where he was running a strong second behind eventual winner Shane Clanton of Fayetteville, Ga., on lap 15 when a lapped car bounced off the fourth-turn wall and flipped onto Hill’s hood, knocked Hill from further action.
Star-Studded Field Expected
Nearly two-dozen drivers are expected to enter all three WoO LMS events this weekend, including the 13 World of Outlaws travelers who have perfect attendance on this year’s tour.
The group of Outlaws is headed by Richards, who enters the weekend leading the points standings, Clanton, Eckert, McCreadie and defending champion Darrell Lanigan of Union, Ky. Rounding out the list of regulars is James, McCool, Tim Fuller of Watertown, N.Y., Chub Frank of Bear Lake, Pa., Clint Smith of Senoia, Ga., and Rookie of the Year contenders Eric Wells of Hazard, Ky., Morgan Bagley of Longview, Texas, and Dillon Wood of New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Drivers who have announced plans to challenge the Outlaws in all three events include Hill; Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga.; Blount Motorsports teammates Tommy Kerr of Maryville, Tenn., and Billy Ogle Jr. of Knoxville, Tenn.; Ray Cook of Brasstown, N.C.; Team Dillon mates Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., and Ty Dillon of Welcome, N.C., who competes on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series; Steve Casebolt of Richmond, Ind.; Brad Neat of Dunnville, Ky.; and Eric Jacobsen of Rio Del Mar, Calif.
Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn., and Jimmy Owens of Newport, Tenn., are expected to enter at least the Smoky Mountain and Tazewell events, while drivers listing single events on their schedules include Randy Weaver of Crossville, Tenn. (Smoky Mountain), Mike Marlar of Winfield, Tenn. (Duck River) and Ronny Lee Hollingsworth of Northport, Ala. (Duck River).
Fri., April 26, at Smoky Mountain Speedway: Pit gates are scheduled to open at 12 noon with the grandstands and tier-parking areas set to be unlocked at 4 p.m. (sooner if traffic backup becomes an issue). The drivers’ meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. with hot laps following at 7:30 p.m.
Ticket prices and other information is available by logging on to www.smokymountainspeedway.com or calling 865-856-8989.
Smoky Mountain Speedway is located at 809 Brickmill Road in Maryville, Tenn.
Sat., April 27, at Tazewell Speedway: The racing program, which also includes action for the Modified Streets, Classic Cars and Four-Cylinders, is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Pit gates are set to open at 3 p.m. and grandstand gates will be unlocked at 4 p.m.
Additional information can be obtained by logging on to www.TazewellSpeedway.net or calling 423-626-2222.
Tazewell Speedway is located just two miles northwest of Tazewell, Tenn. Going north on US 25-E, turn right and then left onto Bacchus Rd., travel 1.8 miles north and .8 miles west and the racetrack is located on the left.
Sun., April 28, at Duck River Raceway Park: Duck River’s gates will open at 12 noon. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. with qualifying to follow. The two-barrel Late Model, Modified Street and Pure Pony divisions are also on the agenda.
More information is available by logging on to www.duckriverracewaypark.com or calling 931-684-8200 or 931-685-1009.
Duck River Raceway Park is located at 1100 Haskins Chapel Rd. in Wheel (Lewisburg), Tenn.
The World of Outlaws Late Model Series is brought to fans across the country by many important sponsors and partners, including: American Racing Custom Wheels (Official Custom Wheel), Arizona Sport Shirts (Official Apparel Company), Armor All (Official Car Care Products), Hoosier Racing Tires (Official Racing Tires), KMC (Official Custom Truck Wheel), STP (Official Fuel Treatment), Vicci (Official Uniform), VP Racing Fuel (Official Racing Fuel), DirtonDirt.com (Hard Charger Award) and McCarthy’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning (Raye Vest Memorial Pill Draw Award); in addition to contingency sponsors: Butlerbuilt, Cometic Gasket, Comp Cams, Dominator Race Products, Edelbrock, Eibach Springs, JE Pistons, JRI Shocks, Klotz Synthetic Lubricants, MSD Ignition, Ohlins Shocks, QuarterMaster, Roush Yates Performance Parts, Superflow Dynos, Wrisco Aluminum and XS Power Racing Batteries; along with manufacturer sponsors Capital Race Cars, Integra Shocks, GRT Chassis, Jake’s Carts, Racing Electronics, Rocket Chassis, TNT Rescue, and Warrior Chassis.