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Needmore is Next for Crate Racin’ USA Tour

Needmore is Next for Crate Racin’ USA Tour

EASTABOGA, Ala — Last November at Needmore Speedway in Norman Park, Ga., fans were treated to a down-to-the-wire finish between Early Bird 50 winner Jimmy Thomas and his chief challenger Hunter Peacock, and the multi-grooved event featured a side-by-side race to the checkered flag that capped a highly-competitive $10,000-to-win main event at the 3/8-mile oval.

Looking back, that night might have been an early signal of a resurgence that is currently underway at the facility, and especially after the first two events of the 2023 season have been met with extremely positive reviews under the direction of new promoter Chance Smith. The 26-year-old, who also works a full-time position with the Adam Stewart-managed Newsome/Raceway Parts Network Crate Racin’ USA Dirt Late Model Series, leased the facility over the winter and has made noticeable changes to the well-constructed facility since taking the reins.

Most notable is a track surface that appears to be much more conducive to side-by-side racing, giving competitors both top and bottom lanes to ply their trade. While dirt track preparation is far from an exact science and there can be ups and downs during the full course of a racing season, Smith’s efforts appear to be paying dividends after completion of just two events.

While Smith has a good grasp on a track’s raceability and the reasons behind it, he has two full weekends under his belt and a pleased audience of race car drivers who have all praised the facility thus far this season, and he’s wearing a smile of positive anticipation as the $10,000-to-win Newsome Raceway Parts Crate Racin’ USA Dirt Late Model Series-sanctioned Gene Maine Memorial looms just over the horizon. It’s scheduled for May 13, and is one of the track’s most important events of the season.

Maine was a driver who was popular among his fellow competitors, but tragically lost his life in an off-track driving accident. The night’s activities will be held in memory of the 1997 champion on the late promoter Ray Miller’s National Late Model Sportsman circuit, and will carry a “Remembering 201” theme in reference to the driver’s unique car number that he used during most of his career.

“It’s one of our major races, and I’m pretty excited about it to be honest,” Smith said. “We only have two races under our belts as the promoter here, but coming off last year’s visit by the Newsome Raceway Parts Crate Racin’ USA Dirt Late Model Series, that was just a phenomenal race and a very close finish. We had a very racy track surface for that event, and that’s what we’re hoping for again. You never can be sure what’s going to happen in dirt track racing, but we’re definitely working hard and aiming for a similar event.”

Schedule of Events (Needmore Speedway):

Fri., May 12
Practice (7 p.m. until 10 p.m)
Pits open: 4 p.m.

Sat., May 13
Pits open: 2 p.m.
Grandstands open: 4 p.m.
Drivers meeting: 6:45 p.m.
Hot laps: 7 p.m.

While the track’s reputation for multi-grooved racing has been an up-and-down situation over the facility’s history, and its red clay surface can provide a guessing game from week to week in search of the ultimate situation, Smith has now mixed a gray, chalky-type clay into the existing dirt. That has appeared to make a difference, and has drawn praise from drivers who have visited the track this season.

“I swear the last time I was there earlier this year, they dropped the green flag for the feature and three or four cars went straight to the top of the track and were racing right up against the outside wall,” said Florida-based driver and chassis builder Jason Fitzgerald. “My eyes were wide open, and I was like, ‘What happened? What am I seeing here?’ Needmore is a place where you hardly ever saw that happen, and I’ve never been a big fan of the track’s surface. It’s been getting better, and I was amazed how much better. You could run both top and bottom the night I was there, and the racing was really good in every division."

Smith has heard similar words from various sources, and can’t wait to open the gates for a practice session on Friday, May 12. He’s even more excited for the actual race day, and has boosted purses in support divisions to reward competitors for their early-season support.

“We’re paying $1,000 to win everything except for the Crown Vics, and that seems to be drawing some extra attention to our support divisions,” Smith said. “That will hopefully continue to help us draw increased support on a local level in the future, but for this show it seems like those guys want to be on a bigger stage, and that’s no different than the 604 Late Model guys.”

It all sets up to be a giant weekend for both the track and the region, and the event will be a key component for the track's success going forward.

“We’re hopeful and optimistic going into the weekend,” Smith said. “We’re hoping the track has a more available top groove like it’s had for our first two races, and we’re working hard to make that happen so we can see multiple-groove racing. I’m more excited for our racetrack than I’ve ever been, and having the touring series here this weekend has me really looking forward to a great weekend.”

The secret? Smith knows that can be elusive to grasp on a week-to-week basis, but changes to the dirt have the facility headed in a good direction, at least based on early results.

“It’s new dirt compared to years past,” Smith said. “We’ve mixed in some white, chalk-type dirt with the red clay that has been here since the track was built. The new stuff has slowed the cars down as much as 2.5 seconds from qualifying to feature time, and that has led to better racing and side-by-side competition. When you can have a slick-type effect across multiple lanes later in your program, it usually leads to a more racy track surface for the feature events."

There’s also an overall plan in place to make the track a larger part of the local region’s overall scene, so more people know the facility is an option for an entertainment choice. First things first, and Smith knows the show has to be a good one for the future when larger numbers of grandstand patrons do elect to come.

“We’ve got the competitors feeling better about coming here to race with the changes we’ve made, and we’ll also continue to work on letting more potential fans know about what we’re doing,” Smith said. “We’ve had okay crowds, but I always think it can be better and we’ll work on that part of our overall plan."

“Between the tour coming in here and what we’ve managed to accomplish for the first two races this season, I’m extremely optimistic heading into the rest of the season,” Smith continued. “I firmly believe we’re heading in the right direction.”

The race will be carried live on Crate Racin' USA TV, so fans who might not be able to catch the action live can tune in for a PPV broadcast of the lucrative event. Access www.crateracinusa.tv to sign up for the production!

More information can be found at www.crateracinusa.com, and the track’s website is www.raceneedmorespeedway.com for ticket pricing information. Both the track and the series have extensive social media coverage as well on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.