TRACKSIDE with RICK MINTER - October 13, 2017

TRACKSIDE with RICK MINTER – October 13, 2017

Senoia Raceway fans, drivers, crew members and family can look forward to this weekly blog from journalist Rick Minter.  Rick has been reporting on motorsports at Senoia Raceway and elsewhere since 1976.





As the excitement builds and the days count down for the Showdown at Senoia on Oct. 26-28, I’ve been thinking about the big season-ending shows at Senoia in days gone by.


Likely, many fans today don’t even know that the Showdown is not a new concept for the track.  For several seasons in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the track hosted big end-of-the-year shows.  They were two-day events with the preliminaries held on Saturday night and the main event a 100-lap Late Model race on Sunday afternoon.


Often the races were billed as the Georgia Dirt Track Championships, a name coined by Mayes “Bill” Massey, who promotes the track today but was the flagman and helped promote the races back then.


They were memorable events, even with the dust that usually accompanied the day-time races, and some of the sport’s biggest stars came to Senoia seeking the winner’s paycheck, which even back then was as much as $5,000.


I’ve forgotten many of the details, so I checked with Jeff Smith, a great historian when it comes to local dirt-track racing.


One thing I do remember is that on those Sunday races, many of the other divisions were done for the weekend so it was up to Late Model drivers to iron the track.  I remember seeing a very young Clint Smith climb into his dad Roscoe’s No. 44 Camaro and make some laps, even a few fairly quick ones, prior to the race.


I recall thinking that we might be watching one of the future stars of the sport, and it wasn’t long before he had his own No. 44 and was winning races at Senoia and elsewhere.


One especially memorable race for me was the 1978 state championship.  It was won by Dick Mills, who drove a gray and blue No. 56 Chevelle originally campaigned by Bud Lunsford.  I remember it being one of the few Chevelles as by that time Camaros had become the body of choice for Late Model drivers.  Aubrey Rhodes finished second followed by Billy Thomas, Bud Lunsford and Bobby Thomas.


As I recall the same car won the championship the year before with Buck Simmons driving.  In that 1977 race, the local favorites fared well as Billy Clanton took the runner-up spot over Roscoe Smith and Leon Archer.


In 1979, dirt racing legend Larry Moore came down from Dayton , Ohio, and dominated the weekend setting a then track record of 15.58 seconds and winning the 100-lapper on Sunday.  Bud Lunsford finished second over Mike Duvall and Joe Bishop.


Today, most of those drivers from the 1970s have been inducted into various Halls of Fame and are among the legendary names in the sport.


I’ll bet the same will be true for the drivers who wind up at the front of the Showdown on Oct. 28.  And maybe some youngster just starting to drive will end up like Clint Smith and be a big winner 30 something years after making some of his first laps on a track.




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