Just before Christmas, a press release was sent out to announce that David Duplissey and Dale McDowell had acquired Boyd’s Speedway from Richard and Robert Harvey. The new ownership team have since gone to work in preparation for the 2014 racing season at the Ringgold, Georgia facility.
But the story of the Duplissey-McDowell acquisition is somewhat of a complicated tale. The pair had originally hoped to take over the embattled Cleveland Speedway, which sits just over 20 miles north of the Chattanooga area Boyd’s track.
“We had been working on a deal to buy the Cleveland Speedway for about four months and we just weren’t able to come to an agreement with what he(Duplissey) was wanting to pay and what they were asking for a purchase price,” McDowell explained. “So in the meantime, we had gone to Boyd’s to look at their facilities and how they do things in order to determine what type of upgrades we might need to do at Cleveland in the event we could work out a deal up there. After we had done that, we were talking to the Harveys about having the tracks around the area to work together and it just kind of grew from there.”
Cleveland Speedway is currently tied up in U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Court. A decision on the historic track’s fate was twice postponed in December by the court as work went on behind the scenes to secure a deal for the property and settle the facility’s debts. January 9th is the date that was most recently established to resolve the speedway’s ownership.
“As the negotiations went on with us trying to work out a deal on Cleveland, we thought we had it worked out,” McDowell said. “Then it looked like we were out as far as having a chance to buy it when someone else came in with a higher offer. There was a lot of back and forth, and that person retracted his offer. But after a while it became obvious that it wasn’t going to work out for us there.”
McDowell, who intends to continue racing, says that Duplissey, who is the president and owner of Chattanooga based National Boiler Service, even considered another strategy to gain his own raceway.
“For a while, he actually contemplated building one instead of trying to buy an existing track,” the veteran late model driver added. “In the meantime, he talked to Richard and Robert again and they decided to sit down together and they put a deal together. It all came down pretty quickly once we got into it. He’s been in it for a while, he’s a sponsor for us here at Team Dillon Racing, and he races a little himself. Basically, he loves the sport and wants to stay involved with it. I’m going to help him manage things and work with him here while I’m still racing a limited schedule myself. We’re still going to do our driving schools here, and it will give me something to do during the week. I’m excited about it and looking forward to making a go of it.”
McDowell has not really been involved in track ownership or promotion before, but he looks forward to the challenge. It was Duplissey’s involvement and financial backing that helped make this the time to get involved in this side of the sport. “I’ve been around racing for over 30 years and I’ve always wanted to be part of something like this, and through him, we were able to be a part of it.”
Along with the announcement of new ownership, the December press release also noted a significant change in the third-mile track’s plan of operation. After having raced on Friday nights for several years, Duplissey and McDowell have decided that it is in the best interest of their business to move to Saturday nights.
“With the curfew that Boyd’s has, it would be better to race on Saturdays,” McDowell stated. “On Saturday nights it can be more relaxed because we can start a little earlier and still be able to get people in and out and not have fight the curfew to get your show in.”
But McDowell believes the foundation for future success at the track has been laid. He also pointed out that track manager Gar Dickson and most of the previous staff will remain in place.
“The biggest thing is that the Harveys and Gar have built the facility up to make it one of the premier facilities around,” he said. “And the purses are among some of the highest paying purse structures for steel head and crate late models around.
“Saying that, to be able to grow it, Saturday will let us do some more things because you don’t have to worry about battling the curfew with people getting off work to get there considering that the traffic around that area can be pretty bad on Friday evenings. And at the time all this came together, there was really no race track running on Saturday as Cleveland hadn’t made any kind of commitments or announcements and neither had North Georgia. We want to increase the fan count and we want to have some bigger shows here, and to do that, you really need to be running on Saturday nights. Richard and Robert had already talked about moving to Saturdays themselves when it wasn’t sure what Cleveland was going to do.”
Duplissey and McDowell hope to add additional entertainment with the more relaxed time frame that Saturdays will provide. Two seater rides, kids bike races and other means of providing a better fan experience are being contemplated.
In terms of the types of racing Boyd’s fans can expect to see, McDowell says negotiations are ongoing to attract touring series races to the facility.
“We definitely have,” he says of the new owners making contact with the various series’ that race in the area. “This all happened really quick so we’re just trying to get everything done with the holidays and all. We haven’t had time to work on everything. We’re just trying to take care of the legalities, but we’re going to be working on those type things as well.”
Boyd’s annual Cabin Fever race will be contested on February 1st and will run much the same way it always has. Officials are looking to implement rules for the 525 Chevrolet Performance powered machines to run with other cars in terms of weight and other considerations to make all the cars as equal as they can be.
As for the track’s weekly classes. “The biggest thing I see is that the race tracks around here are not really working together. Rules are little bit different from here to there and that’s just to protect your locals and make sure they race at your facility. We’re looking closely at weight rules and those sorts of things for all the classes. We’re thinking about changing the weight rules for the steel heads and crates because of the mufflers that have to be run here, but basically, everything is going to stay like it was.”