After years of changes, North Georgia Speedway is making another one.
Kevin Young, one of the track’s owners, said Monday that Dalton resident Jason Jones would be the Murray County dirt track’s new promoter.
“We just finally got all the paperwork finalized this afternoon,” Young said.
Jones will be taking over a track that has seen increasingly limited action over the years, including in 2012.
The one-third mile clay oval last hosted a race on June 2, when Chatsworth’s Aaron Ridley took the checkered flag in the Southern Regional Racing Series feature. A message posted six days later on the track’s home page at northgaspeedway.net simply said “CLOSING. Bad economy has forced the track to close.” As of Monday afternoon, that message was still there, and the speedway’s sign outside the track on Highway 225 also said “CLOSED.”
Terry Wilson took over as a co-promoter last year and continued in that role until the track closed last month. Wilson’s partner was Keiff Ellis.
“We’ve closed it down,” Wilson said Monday in a phone interview with The Daily Citizen. “We’re through with it. We lost too much money.”
Jones, who owns Twisted Up Smoke Hut in Ringgold, has been a flag man at North Georgia Speedway “on and off” for six years and started racing at Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold this season.
“This is the best track around,” Jones said of NGS.
“Any driver will tell you that. I grew up watching from the stands since I was a grasshopper, and the last thing I wanted to see was it shut down.”
Jones’ target date for reopening the track is July 14.
“But if not then,” he said, “it will be the following weekend.”
The speedway’s founder was Earnest Young, Kevin Young’s grandfather.
He built the dirt track in the 1960s, and it has stayed within the Young family through its history over parts of six decades.
However, the speedway has a history of closing and reopening, as well as frequent changes of promoters and conflicts of interest. Ellis and Wilson became co-promoters in June 2011 after the track closed down for one month during the heart of the 2011 race season. Timmy Millwood was the promoter before them, and Monty Morrow held the title from 2007-2009. Ron Harris and Ronnie Sutton ran it from 2005-2007 and Scott Lee and Kristi Ayre from 2003-2005.
According to previous Daily Citizen reports, when Morrow oversaw both the North Georgia Speedway and Tennessee’s Cleveland Speedway in 2009, racing at North Georgia was moved from its traditional Saturday night to Fridays — Cleveland got the coveted Saturday night spot — and then became so sporadic that few drivers chose to compete at the Murray County track.
Chatsworth native Chip Brindle, who raced at the track for 11 seasons, competed there just once this year, instead choosing to run regularly at Dixie Speedway in Woodstock. One of the reasons is the inconsistency of the Chatsworth speedway.
“We’ve been racing at Dixie because the North Georgia Speedway is so up and down,” Brindle said. “You’re just not sure if it’s going to be opened or closed.”
The speedway took a one-month break in May. In a previous interview, Ellis cited maintenance as the reason for the temporary closing. The track reopened June 2 for Ridley’s win but could not survive any longer.
“We were there that night, but not racing,” Brindle said. “We were at Dixie and made it back in time to watch the race and they were telling everyone that night that they were done.”
Poor attendance in recent seasons has been a problem, and Jones hopes to change that.
“We’re going to do a lot of things for the fans,” he said. “We’re going to do different promotions and even maybe bring bands out to play for the fans.”
Young said there was not an immediate fallback option once Ellis and Wilson stepped out of the picture.
“In this economy, it is tough,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it would’ve been shut down permanently, but we didn’t have a go-to person when Keiff Ellis and Terry Wilson told us they couldn’t do it anymore.”
There were suitors, but the decision was made to give the first shot to the first caller.
“We were hoping to find a good promoter. We had several people contacting us,” Young said. “We were trying to make a selection on who was the best promoter. Jason had contacted us first. To be fair about it, we wanted to give Jason the shot since he contacted us first. And he has the passion for the sport and is local.”
But North Georgia Speedway will reopen soon
After years of changes, North Georgia Speedway is making another one.
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