By Devin Golden
North Georgia Speedway is gearing up for a new season, and officials for the clay oval — billed on the speedway’s website as “the fastest 1/3-mile dirt track in the Southeast” — are excited about plans to bring some of the biggest dirt-track racing series to Chatsworth in 2012.
A practice session is scheduled for 2-7 p.m. Saturday. The first race day is March 24, with gates opening at 5:30 p.m. and competition starting at 7:30.
Each Saturday — save April 7, May 12, Aug. 11 and Oct. 6 and 20 — is scheduled to include a full race schedule or a visit by a touring race series. Scheduled to return are the Shaeffer Oil Southern National Series (July 19) and the Southern Regional Racing Series (May 5, June 2 and July 2).
Dalton driver Gary McPherson, a 15-time track champion, is excited for the speedway to open this season, which will be the first full year under the oversight of promoters Keiff Ellis and Terry Wilson.
“There’s a lot of history at the track,” McPherson said. “Things have changed a lot in the style of racing.”
But returning to a fan-friendly style is important for the Young family, the track’s owners, and it will be a big focus for this season.
“We’ve got a lot of things going on this year,” said Mitch Walker, the track’s special events director. “We’ve got a lot of fan giveaways. The pricing for the grandstands are down as low as possible. The concessions have vastly improved as far as the quality of the food.”
The track’s website (northgaspeedway.net) lists general admission grandstand tickets as $12 for adults, with ages 11 and younger admitted free. For the pits, tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for ages 6-11 and free for 5 and younger. For special events, all tickets increase $5.
“This year we will be offering some special things for the fans, like autograph sessions for the fans where they can actually come down and meet the drivers, look at the cars, and other things,” Wilson said. “Each two weeks, we will draw a ticket number out of the grandstands and can make a couple laps in our pack car, which is what we prepare the track with. They also will be able to wave the green flag for whatever race they want to start.”
Another major reason promoters are hoping for a good season for the track is to help the area’s economy.
“When you look at the traveling series, anytime you have a series like that, you will attract 50 or 60 cars,” Walker said. “And all these guys are from out of town, so there goes your hotels and your restaurants.”