To Race Or Not To Race? That Is The Question

An overflow crowd flocked to FCS in June for the Karnage Karnival Night of Destruction.

William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon, once took up residence in Southwark, London’s entertainment district, grinding out a variety of comedy, drama and tragedy.

Had the Bard been with us today, he may have found plenty of material at an iconic racetrack in Callaway.

It’s been a whirlwind month for the Franklin County Speedway, where racing has returned for the 2017 season, a record crowd turned out en mass for promoter Langley Austin’s latest promotion in early June, and then suddenly like the flip of a switch, posts on Facebook announced the remainder of the season had been cancelled.

For race fans in the otherwise pastoral Callaway Valley, there was more drama and controversy than a daytime soap opera.

Austin had things going at FCS for the early part of the 2017 season, gradually increasing car counts and fan turnout throughout the spring, running the track owned by promoter extraordinaire Whitey Taylor. But, he hit the jackpot on June 3rd when his Moonshine Capital Promotions’ latest off-the-wall venture brought out the fans and curiosity seekers to the 3/8 mile oval.

The Karnage Karnival Night of Destruction came to Callaway, and it didn’t disappoint, delivering thrilling spills and hard crashes to the delight of what was described in a release as the biggest crowd at Franklin County Speedway in several decades.

Fans’ cars poured in the gates two-wide for hours, with a backup that went well onto Callaway Road for several miles. It was a sight that many hadn’t seen since the 1980s.

The night opened with the standard lineup of racing action, including the Mini Cups, East Coast Flatheads and the Stock 4 Divisions.

After the regular race events were over, it was time for the destruction and mayhem to begin and it proved to be destructive and entertaining as promised. First up was the Tire Stack Race where 10 used tires were stacked on top of each car, with the object of the race to keep the most tires on the car while completing laps, with things getting intense as tires got knocked off and competitors retaliating in kind to knock off other’s tires.

By the race’s end several cars were in the wall, tires were everywhere and the lone female racer, Brandi Raymer, took the checkered flag.

That chaos was followed by a Backwards race where all cars drove in reverse, leading to a Ford Explorer flipping over, and a Blindfold Race where drivers were blindfolded as a passenger gave directions. That led to cars slamming the walls and passengers throwing tires to disrupt the competition. A Flagpole Race, Truck Tug-of-War, Burn Out Competition and Large Car Demolition Derby followed. A tow truck driver’s dream night to be sure.

Afterward, Austin announced the next Night of Destruction would be July 4th, dubbed “Fireworks, Racing and Mayhem,” including a 60-lap Late Model race and Bowling with Cars fiasco just to mention a few. Austin had found what was a hit and he was seeing green.

But in the immortal words of Lee Corso . . . “Not so fast my friends . . .”

By mid-June Austin had posted on Facebook that Taylor was jealous of all the money he had made and wanted a bigger piece of the pie. By the third week of June, Austin announced that all racing had been cancelled for the remainder of the season. A similar disagreement in 2014 had Austin pull races from FCS and move them to a track in North Carolina.

But, in an exclusive phone interview with The Star’s Wild Bill on June 21, Whitey Taylor offered a different explanation on the cause for the impasse with Austin.

“The former tenant couldn’t show proof that he had insurance, insuring me,” Taylor explained. “That’s key with a race track and it meant everything (in the event of a problem) was coming back to me.”

So, Taylor took back the track and says his plans are to bring back racing to FCS by early July.

“I’m contacting drivers and car owners. It’ll be back and it’ll be great. When it comes to promoters, I’m P.T. Barnum.”

Hopefully, for die-hard fans and race car drivers at the Franklin County Speedway, things will work out and “All Will (truly) Be Well That Ends Well.”

Bill Turner