What if: the DTWC at Atomic Speedway

Racing is full of what-ifs. Whether it be drivers with shortened careers or if a track has continued to be owned by a specific promoter, bench racing is full of what-ifs and east Tennessee is no different.

One of the most recent what-ifs for the area comes back into conversation this time of the year. What if the Dirt Track World Championship had been held at Atomic Speedway?

Most people probably know the story by now. In late 2004, then Atomic Speedway owner was in talks with DTWC promoter Carl Short about moving the famed race to the 1/3-mile oval.

Following the closure of Pennsboro Speedway, the long-time home of the Dirt Track World Championship, Short moved the race around to different venues for a number of years prior to the negotiations with Varnell. Controversy surrounded the 2004 running at Bluegrass Speedway in Bardstown, Kentucky. Short began to search around for another venue. The east Tennessean had his eye on Atomic Speedway because of location, a racy surface, and an entirely new region to host the event.

The packed grandstands at Atomic Speedway prior to the 2002 UDTRA race.

The packed grandstands at Atomic Speedway prior to the 2002 UDTRA race.

Just as it looked as if Short had secured holding the race at Atomic, Varnell sold the track in January 2005. Ed Adams bought the speedway and everyone knows the outcome during the following two years. Short contacted Adams about the pending agreement with Varnell, but Adams was not interested. Most have heard the story that Adams told Short he had never heard of the race. And the rest is history.

As DWTC weekend approaches, it seems like the race has found a good home at Portsmouth Raceway Park. Yet, for those of us near the process during that time, one wonders what could have been had Atomic held the Dirt Track World Championship race.

Would the track still be here today? If so, who would be the owner? Would the race have stayed at Atomic for a year or two or would the event still be held there today? How would have hosting the Dirt Track World Championship affected the racing in this region as far as car counts over the last 10 years?

We will never know the answers to these questions. But it can be fun and interesting to think back to that time.

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