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Hope for Lanier Speedway
Creative planning keeps local track in business
A few fans wait for the beginning of a race Saturday during Homegrown Tomato Night at Lanier National Speedway in Braselton. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

Lanier National Speedway would appear to be on its final leg. Track owner Donnie Clack held a meeting in May in which he outlined the grim financial prospects brought on by fewer drivers and low attendance. The 2011 schedule was trimmed and, in some cases, the prize money was reduced.

However, Clack believes there’s a great chance he’ll be able to put on a 2012 season.

“I think we can (have a season),” Clack said. “I think we’re going to have to be creative to make it a productive season for racers, the track and fans alike. From that standpoint this season, we’d like to see car counts higher, but we understand everyone is struggling (financially) right now.”

So far this year, Clack is using the track for events well beyond just racing to try to make ends meet. He has started an open-air flea market for Fridays and Saturdays. There will be a swimsuit/bikini contest on Aug. 5. A plan is in the works for a small festival including music and games for kids, as well as a demolition derby.

“We’re working on different ways to utilize the property other than hosting night races, and we’re going to have to do more of those type things,” Clack said.

One event Clack is hoping will take off is Friday night drifting/drag racing, which is open to spectators and takes place twice per month. Participants can bring their own cars to the track, and as long as they sign a waiver, will be free to drag race on the front stretch.

“You may have a Corvette racing a jacked-up truck,” Clack said. “Or you could see a Fast and Furious-type Z-car.”

There is also spectator qualifying to see which car can run the fastest lap. In addition, Clack will bring in drift racers, and spectators can ride with them.

Clack’s vision behind having a drifting/drag racing night is to nurture friendly rivalries between racers.

“If I can turn this into a hangout and keep young racers off the street, that’s the goal,” he said. “They’re going to do it anyway, so I’m hoping they’ll choose to do it here and not get in trouble.”

Of course, there’s still a racing season as well. Heading into the season, Clack said the annual Fourth of July weekend race would be a good gauge of if the track could get through the year. Thanks to a fireworks show, the race is usually Lanier National Speedway’s busiest night of the season.

That was again the case this year.

“It turned out pretty good for us,” Clack said. “The numbers were down some from the previous year, but it was still a good indicator for what special events will look like. People will still come, and show interest. And there were a good amount of cars.

“All that’s encouraging.”

The next big event on the calendar is the annual Speedfest in January. In the past, some of NASCAR’s biggest stars, including Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, have attended the event, which takes place the Sunday before the Super Bowl.

The next Late Model race will be Aug. 6. Normally costing $20 for admission, the track is offering a discount of $1 off for donated school supplies, up to $5. Proceeds go to Hall County schools.

Clack said additional deals can be found by “Liking” Lanier National Speedway on Facebook. So far, Clack said, community support has been key to the track’s survival.

“I’d really like to thank the community fans and racers,” he said. “And I’d like to thank the sponsors, because they’ve been hard to come by.”

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