Woodstock dirt track still going strong at 44
by Emily Horos
ehoros@mdjonline.com
May 24, 2013 11:51 PM | 1390 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In its infancy in the 1970s, Dixie Speeway was like an island among a sea of undeveloped land — a far cry from the burgeoning suburb Woodstock is now.
<Br>Special photo by Dixie Speedway
In its infancy in the 1970s, Dixie Speeway was like an island among a sea of undeveloped land — a far cry from the burgeoning suburb Woodstock is now.
Special photo by Dixie Speedway
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A celebration will take place tonight at Dixie Speedway as the Woodstock dirt track has its 44th anniversary.

In addition to a full racing program and a demolition derby, there will be a display to show fans the history of racing at Dixie from the 1970s until the present.

Dixie was opened by Georgia racing legend Bud Lunsford and Cherokee County businessman Max Simpson in 1969, but for most of its existence it has been owned by the Swims family.

Mickey Swims purchased the track in 1976, shortly after it had been paved, and decided to tear up the asphalt and return it to its dirt-track roots a year later.

In its 44 years, drivers have come from near and far every summer to race on the red-clay track. Among the drivers that have raced the track are NASCAR legends Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty.

“We are here every Saturday night, May through October,” said Mia Green, Mickey Swims’ daughter and a track spokesperson. “We have been here all this time.

Dixie existed in Woodstock long before anything else. Green believes that’s one of the reasons that the community and track have such a bond. The cars have gotten faster and the crowds have grown larger, but little else has changed at the track itself.

Meanwhile, the surrounding area has exploded, with the bustling Towne Lake area just north of Dixie. Since the track’s opening, Woodstock’s population has gone from less than 1,000 to nearly 25,000.

“I hate to say that we were here first, but we were,” Green said. “I feel like we have always been accepted because we bring income to the county and the restaurants and hotels and all that. But also, I don’t know that we have ever been seen as a nuisance because we are a family atmosphere and we try to make it affordable. In return, we always try to bless the community back.”

Green said the track provides tickets for raffles and partners with many of the local schools.

“We take our role in the community very seriously,” she said.

Many of today’s Dixie drivers have racing in their blood. Several are third-generation, while others come from entire families of racers. Current Dixie regulars Luther Jenkins, Michael Page and Frank Ingram all come from families with a history of racing at the track

Jenkins’ grandfather, Luther Carter, raced in the 1970s and ’80s. Page’s father and brothers all race, and Ingram’s father, the late Bill Ingram, was a longtime Dixie driver who has an annual race run at the track in his memory.

“It’s definitely a family thing,” Green said. “Once you are in racing, you are in it for life. It’s kind of its own little fish bowl.”

It’s not just the racers who come in families. Green said many of the employees are second-generation workers.

“We have had the same people working at the track for over 25 years,” Green said. “Every employee continues to come back year after year and then new members of the family come in. We are like a very well-run ship. Everybody knows their role. We really take pride in that.”

The track employs more than 60 people every Saturday night, which does not include the various emergency workers on site.

For the track’s 40th anniversary on May 23, 2009, the state celebrated it as Dixie Speedway Day. Green said many former drivers came out for that event, and though tonight’s celebration won’t be as grand, she expects past drivers to returning once again.

“They will be there just attending the race,” Green said. “There will be many people from the past who just come for the celebration.”
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