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Friday, September 2, 2011 - 11:49am

Racetracks Weather Recession, Barely

A racetrack that’s been a fixture for three decades in northeast Georgia is scaling back its schedule. Lanier National Speedway in Braselton is losing its battle with the economy.

Track owner Donnie Clack says his and about 20 small racetracks across Georgia already operate on thin profit margins. Add the struggling economy and...

“Percentage wise, we’re down about 40 percent across the board.”

Clack says he can’t afford to offer weekly races anymore. So he’ll stage a few special races annually, and try to make up lost money by renting the track for a flea market and concerts.

Not only are ticket and sponsor sales down, Clack says so are the numbers of drivers entering events.

“I’d say 90 percent of our drivers and racers are either in the construction business, or the automotive industry. It’s taken a big toll on these guys being able to do this week-in and week-out.”

Clack says while he’s weathering the economy for now, he is considering selling the Speedway.

But it's not a struggle everywhere. Mickey Swim has owned Dixie Speedway in Woodstock for nearly 40 years. When the year began, he assumed the worst. But he's been pleasantly surprised by good crowd turnouts for his track's races, which still stage events weekly.

He lowered ticket prices to $10 or less. And that's his best advice to other track owners around the state.

“With the economy the way it is now, what I’d suggest anyone do...I’d lower my gates. I did. And see what it does. Then if they can’t make it then, then they’ve got to do whatever they’ve got to do.”

This Labor Day weekend, the state’s big track in Hampton, Atlanta Motor Speedway, is hosting major stock car racing. That includes the top series NASCAR race on Sunday night.