Only one track will host all three of the national touring series for dirt late models in 2014, and that track is located in Maryville, Tenn. Beginning with this weekend’s three day event for the relatively new NDRL Series, Smoky Mountain Speedway will set into motion a season filled with big races and high speed action. At other times during this season, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series will make its first appearance on the track and the World of Outlaws Late Models Series will return to the facility after last year’s successful visit.
Casey Moses heads the staff that runs the 4/10 mile dirt oval for the ownership team of Roger Sellers, Larry Garner, Stanley Best and Kevin Coffey.
“We didn’t realize we were the only track hosting all three of the national series until we read it,” Moses said. “We were kind of surprised a little bit to find that out, but we hope everything works out for us.”
This weekend’s NDRL show, billed as the Tennessee Tip-off, will feature a Thursday night practice session prior to Friday’s $7,500-to-win race and Saturday’s $12,500-to-win affair.
“We had initially agreed to do a one night show for $10,000-to-win, but we met up with John(Kennedy, NDRL owner and founder) and Kelley(Carlton, NDRL Director) at the PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis because that was the only time we were able to get all the track owners together with them,” Moses explained. “They had been trying to find a nearby track to pair with us for the weekend, but at that time, they told us they weren’t able to do that.”
Moses says that’s when the idea for two complete shows to be run on the one track was first discussed.
“John’s ultimate hope for the series was to get two day shows at one track to cut down on travel expenses for the drivers so we went back and forth with them on a plan,” she pointed out. “The owners were not for it at first because they wanted to just do the one day deal. We had never done anything this big before. Then after continuing to go back and forth, we got together and worked out a deal that I think will be best for everybody. Hopefully we’ll get good weather and great crowds. I feel like we’ll have some great drivers here, probably even some who don’t race in this area very often.”
But putting together such a big event is quite an undertaking, especially considering that this track has come so far in such a short amount of time. Dustin Dunlap, who assists Moses in running the track, was instrumental in getting the final arrangements made.
“It was a big decision for us after just having our first $10,000-to-win race last year to now having a two day event for $20,000 total along with also having the World of Outlaws back and the Lucas Oil Series here for the first time later this year,” Moses added. “It’s a huge year for us and we have our fingers crossed with weather and all else. Hopefully everything will be on our side.”
To just have added the NDRL would have been a major step, but Smoky Mountain is also taking on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series for the first time. Moses explained that the arrangement to bring that series to the track came together somewhat unexpectedly.
“That deal fell into place even better than I was originally thinking,” she said. “I had initially spoken to Rick Schwallie(LOLMDS official) at The Scorcher at Bulls Gap and he said he was still working to get us a race but there just wasn’t an available date. Then he called about two months after we had talked at Bulls Gap to say that he was working on something but it might be a Wednesday or Thursday night race. At that time, I was excited about that because we would take what we could get.
“He called me back a few weeks later to say that a Saturday date might be available because another track was going off the schedule so we were really excited to get that.”
The LOLMDS will visit Smoky Mountain on June 21.
The World of Outlaws Late Models returned to Smoky Mountain last year for the first time in a decade. And by all accounts, the event was a smashing success. Many long time observers of the track said that the biggest crowd they had ever seen at the facility gathered that night to watch Shane Clanton drive to victory.
“That was the biggest crowd we’ve had since we’ve had the track,” Moses declared. “It was beyond our expectations for that race and that was even with it being an iffy weather weekend. We lost some drivers who were going to do all three Tennessee races(Duck River, Smoky Mountain and Tazewell). We ended up being the only track to get our race in on the scheduled date for that weekend. We feel like it can be even bigger this year if the weather will cooperate.”
The WoO Late Models will return on May 17.
But those three races are not all the track will be hosting in 2014. Ray Cook’s Spring Nationals, Southern Nationals and Bonus Series races will all be held at SMS this season.
“Chris Tilley is running the Bonus races and Ray Cook is involved as well,” Moses said. “Anything that Ray Cook is involved in is going to be done the right way, and we have a great relationship with Chris Tilley so we’re really looking forward to those races.”
The goal was for the track to host one or two races per month throughout the year. Aside from the races already mentioned, the Southern All Stars, the SRRS, the Ultimate Super Late Model Series, AMS Modifieds and the United Sprint Car Series will also visit the Maryville track.