Reliving heyday of dirt track
by Special to the Banner
Jan 06, 2014 | 2651 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Contributed photo LOCAL HISTORIAN Debbie Moore sets up a camera preparing to interview a dirt track Hall of Famer. The interview will be included in a coming documentary about the history of dirt track racing in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. It is expected to premiere this spring.
Local historians Ron and Debbie Moore will soon release a documentary on dirt track racing that covers the Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia regions.

The premiere is planned for this spring. Details will be released soon.

The couple began filming in different areas of the South in June.

“Dirt track racing is declining and the history of the tracks, fans, drivers and track workers is something we are hoping to preserve,” Debbie Moore said. “There are hundreds of former and current drivers just in our target area. We are hoping to get a good cross section in an attempt to show the history of the sport.”

The couple has recorded several Hall Fame racers such as Red Farmer, Charles Mincey and Freddy Fryar, who was recently inducted. Fryar and his brothers, Harold and Billy, were well-known drivers around the Chattanooga area. The brothers were regulars around Boyd’s Speedway and racing in Cleveland.

“In our interviews, some of the drivers discussed their days of moonshining and running liquor to Atlanta,” Moore explained. “Charlie Mincey ran moonshine from the time he was 13 until he was almost an adult. He then raced dirt tracks all over the South and during some of the early days of what we now know as NASCAR.”

Gordon Pirkle, the director of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame located in Dawsonville, Ga., indicates the dirt tracks in that area led to the formation of NASCAR, the historians reported.

“He points out that the early drivers from Dawsonville were so good they won 15 of the first 17 races held on the beach in Daytona,” she cited.

After World War II, dirt track racing became popular as small tracks sprung up all over the South. In the Chattanooga area, there were tracks at Soddy Daisy, Alton Park, Warner Park, Moccasin Bend, Boyd’s Speedway and even a dirt track at Lake Winnepesaukah. The historians pointed out Cleveland’s neighbor to the north, Athens, had a track that operated for a couple of years in the 1950s. In the upper East Tennessee area, Broadway Speedway, Atomic Speedway, Maryville, 411 Speedway, Crossville and Fairground Track in Newport were also running.

Last year, only 12 tracks operated in East Tennessee, including Cleveland Speedway, which has been in operation since 1954. The Cleveland track is currently involved in bankruptcy proceedings and will return to court this week.

Mike Bell of Georgia, a dirt-track historian, was interviewed by the Cleveland researchers.

“Back in the day, almost anyone could afford a race car,” Bell reflected. “They modified their dad’s old car, used junk yard parts and did all the work themselves. Today, the cost of racing the big engines is preventing young drivers from entering the sport. Eventually, this will lead to the elimination of local racing.”

The documentary is being written by Debbie Moore. Dustin Coleman serves as the narrator and John Cook is writing original music for the film. Neil Allen and David Swafford are serving as technical advisers, and Will Moore has assisted in filming. Ron Moore is the director, and will edit and produce the film.

“We are excited about the project and the people we have interviewed,” Moore said.

The Moore family has collected numerous photographs of tracks, drivers and cars.

Moore added, “The film will include home movies from several drivers. We are still accepting photographs and we are especially interested in 8 mm film or early videos of racing.”

The announcement about the premiere and some companion events will be announced soon. The Moore family can be contacted at bradleyfolks@aol.com or 423-472-5256

Ron and Debbie Moore host a local history show, “Old Town Cleveland,” each Saturday morning on WOOP FM 99.9 radio in Cleveland.

The Moore family released a documentary, “The History of Caney Creek Village,” in 2013. The documentary received an Award of Distinction from the East Tennessee Historical Society.