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Lanier National Speedway fans say farewell to Saturday racing
Track's future uncertain with property on the market
Dwayne Buggay signs a autograph for Andrew Swain, 7, and Kathleen Hillard Saturday evening at Lanier National Speedway during an autograph session prior to Saturday night’s races. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

BRASELTON - The same message that fans have seen for years as they filed out of Lanier National Speedway may have been a little bit misleading as these same patrons of short-track racing left the South Hall track after Saturday's races.

The space at the bottom of the press box, which is directly above the exit, says in big black cursive letters, "Thank y'all for coming, See ya next week."

But there is no next week. Weekly racing at the 30-year old Lanier National is finished, at least for now.

After declining revenues and attendance, combined with a terrible economy, owner Donnie Clack had no option but to put the track on the market.

It's not a fate anyone wanted to see, but fans understand that the owner did everything within his power to keep racing profitable at the 3/8-mile asphalt track, one of the last of its kind in the state.

"I just hate to see the track close," said Dianna Dickens of Commerce, who has been to more than 200 races at LNS with her husband and two sons since 2005. "There's not going to be anywhere else to go see racing now on Saturday night."

At the front entrance, Bobby Hall took his position as ticket taker, a role he's had at the track for 15 years, quite possibly for the final time as warm and sunny skies gave way to comfortably cool weather for racing after dark.

As long-time patron, and former track driver, Sonny Garrett entered the gates, the two men chatted as they normally would before the races. This time the topic of discussion was what the fate of this track might hold. The final two races at Lanier National are scheduled for January, 2012.

Garrett and Hall both agreed that it's just sad to have such a staple for short-track racing have to close its doors.

They're both optimistic that the right buyer will be able to come in and pony up the cash to keep the doors open.

"I hate to see it go," said Hall, who was wearing a neatly pressed yellow track shirt. "There's not another one like it around."

Over the years, Lanier National has hosted countless circuits on its oval track since it opened as a dirt track in 1982 and was paved just a few years later.

Brothers Britt and Julian Cooper, from Bethlehem, also came out to the track one last time together.

They arrived early as the sun was still beating down on fans that arrived early and staked out a spot at the top of the grandstands.

Britt, who started coming to races 20 years ago, remembers coming out and waiting some weeks through the rain, hoping to see racing. Back then, Lanier National Speedway was a hot ticket with packed grandstands and fans also standing on the hill adjacent to the concrete seating area.

Like others, they're belief is that the economy had a cruel trickle-down effect on drivers that would normally like to race.

"There's just not enough cars out here anymore," said Julian Cooper.

Drivers also have the same emotional attachment to Lanier National.

Dwayne Buggay carved a very successful driving career starting in 1995 at Lanier National in the Late Model Series races.

Buggay planned on racing in Mobile, Ala. this weekend, but when he found out that it was the final weekend of racing at Lanier National, he made it a priority to come race for possibly the final time at his home track.

He says it's a shame that the next generation of racers might not have the same opportunity to learn the sport at the same track.

Buggay says that Lanier National is wide enough with forgiving turns that parents aren't scared to let their children run at LNS.

"I hate to see it close down," said Buggay, a two-time track champion in 2004. "Hopefully, this is just a bump in the road for Lanier National."


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