South Alabama Speedway Track History
"RACING TO THE STARS"
|One of the all-time greats, Freddie Fryar|
During its history, South Alabama Speedway has had its share of ups and downs. There have been years when the track was completely closed down and years when it was said to be the best track in Alabama. The list of drivers that have competed at the banked oval include some of the legends of NASCAR – Bobby, Donnie and Davey Allison, Neil Bonnett, David Pearson, Pete Hamilton, Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip and Red Farmer, Busch Grand National Champions - David Green and Steve Grissom, All Pro Champions Darrell Brown and Jody Ridley, and a virtual Who’s Who among short track stars. Drivers such as three time Late Model Sportsman National Champion L. D. Ottinger, two time Late Model Sportsman National Champion Butch Lindley, Mike Alexander, Bob Pressley, Freddie Fryar, Dick Anderson, Rick Crawford, Dave Mader III, Gary “Hotshoes” Balough, Hut Stricklin, Stanley Smith, Wayne Niedecken Sr., Wayne Niedecken Jr., Rat Lane, Billy McGinnis, Ronnie Sanders, Mickey Gibbs and Dickie Davis have raced at SAS. Add to that list local heroes C. L. Fisher, Jackie Young, Nix Bruce, Wayne Newton, Earnie Dean, Bob Bean, LaDon Smith, and Sonny Glover among others, the track has certainly had its Saturday night battles.
|Rat Lane takes checkers at SAS in the mid 70’s. ( Tony Martin photo)||Bobby Allison visited SAS in the AMC Hornet. (Tony Martin photo)|
The track opened on June 9, 1973 as Twin City Speedway. The track was built as a 1/2-mile oval, with 12 degrees banked turns. It was later discovered that a mistake had been made in measuring and the track actually was 4/10 mile. It was owned and operated by Twin City Speedway Corp., a group of 10 Opp and area businessmen and headed by Jack Foley. C.L. Fisher won the first Late Model Sportsman feature. On July 7, the track was closed so another inch of asphalt could be added to the surface. On August 18, a 100-lap Grand Opening race was held. Neil Bonnett held off Red Farmer, Joel Watkins and Donnie Allison for the win. The Deep South 100 closed out the season. Pete Hamilton set a new track record of 16.80 and won the 100-lap feature. C. L. Fisher was crowned Late Model Sportsman Champion and Wayne Money Spectator Champion.
Pete Hamilton is all smiles after winning the Deep South 100|
1974 saw a new manager, Stormy Weathers, and the start of a South Alabama tradition, the Rattler. The track held mostly weekly shows with Late Model Sportsman and Spectator classes. C. L. Fisher defended his Sportsman championship.
Under the direction of Charles Grant of Raceway Enterprises of Pensacola, the 1975 season kicked off with the 2nd annual Rattler 100. After a record weekend, the track closed for a month to address a problem with the restrooms. Racing continued until June 7, when the speedway was closed for two weeks. The track reopened on June 21, with Fred Colquett as manager, running Late Model Sportsman and Hobby Cars, which were less expensive than the Spectator cars.
Twin City opened in 1976 with Colquett at the reins. The track was now being referred to as a 4/10 mile. The big news of the year was Dave Mader III winning 7 Late Model Sportsman features in a row. The season closed with the Cam2 100. Buck Simmons took the checkers over Donnie Allison, Red Farmer, Dave Mader III, and Dickie Davis.
|Buck Simmons (81), Neil Bonnett (12), Dave Mader III (73), and Donnie Allison (88) battle during the Cam2 100. (Leonard Caldwell photo)||Red Farmer and Mader battle for third place in the Cam2 100. (Leonard Caldwell photo)||Buck Simmons accepts his trophy after winning the Cam2 100. (Leonard Caldwell photo)|
1977 was Twin City Speedway Corporations last year as track owners. Colquett was still manager. The season opened with the Rattler 100, which was postponed for two weeks. Weekly racing continued through the year.
Johnny Williams of Montgomery bought the speedway in 1978 and renamed it South Alabama Motor Speedway. Of course, the year opened with the Rattler 100. On June 25, Jody Ridley won the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman “Pepsi 150” over Scott Carlson. Racing was held on a weekly basis.
|1979 was a busy year at South Alabama. Williams took the pace car to Daytona and took top honors in the Daytona 500 Pace Car Beauty Contest. The season opened with the Rattler 100. Jody Ridley won the second annual “Pepsi 150” NASCAR Late Model Sportsman race on June 23. Ridley came back on September 1st to win the All Pro 200 National Championship Late Model race, beating Butch Lindley and Billy McGinnis.|
Williams’ ownership continued through the 1982 Rattler 100. The track closed after the Rattler and remained closed until Lamar Hallford and David Lummus reopened the track in 1984. Hallford and Lummus took a different approach, planning just 3 or 4 major shows each year. Their ideas worked as 7500 fans crowded into the speedway with another 1500 having to be turned away at the Rattler 100. After the successful Rattler, 1000 seats were added, along with 2 concessions. The track also hosted the All Pro Super Series twice in 1984. Butch Lindley won both races.
In 1985, the track held two All-American Challenge Series races, the Rattler 100 and a June 22, 125 lap race won by Mickey Gibbs. The Rattler again drew 7500 fans. Lummas and Halford’s last year as promoters, 1986, brought more publicity to the track as the All American Challenge Series Rattler 100 was taped by ESPN and shown later. A June 14 AACS race was won by Daniel Keene.
Bill Caughey and Jerry Lawley co-promoted the speedway in 1987, but the track closed shortly after the start of the season due in part to rain outs of major events.
Ray Morrow was the owner from mid 1988 through 1990. The track was remodeled in 1989 with new signs, buildings, roofs, and concession stands. The backstretch was also widened to help drivers. Morrow continued the tradition of the Rattler, plus hosted weekly shows.
Mickey and Tina Brackin owned the track from 1991 through mid 1994. Brackin catered to the local drivers and was known for having large fields of cars. It was normal to have more than 100 cars in the pits every Saturday. The grandstands were normally packed also. The Rattler race showcased the local drivers, but the Coca-Cola 6 pack was held for Late Models.
Brackin sold the track to Hershal Benefield in mid 1994. He stayed on until the end of year, with Benefield taking full control in 1995. Late Models returned to the Rattler under sanctioning of the Southern All Star Series. The Southern All Stars also visited in October 1995 with Johnny Brazier taking the win. Benefield owned the track until 1997.
John Dykes and Henry Holley purchased the speedway in December 1997. With just over two months before the 1998 season opening Rattler 100, Dykes and Holley set out to renovate the aging speedway. The major project was repaving the 25-year-old surface. The pits were redone with concrete, with air, water, and electricity accessible to each stall. Nearly 500 boards were replaced in the bleachers and new paint was everywhere. The name was changed to South Alabama Speedway and the number of classes was cut from 7 to 4. The emphasis was building the local car count. In addition, special Late Model shows were run, the first of which was the Rattler 100. Dave Mader III won a July 25th 125- lap race. A November 150-lap race was cut short by rain with Mike Harmon (#24) declared the winner. Class champions for 1998 were: Joey Watkins-Sportsman, Rick Northey-Super Stock, Don Huff- Pure Stock, and Jeff Smith- Street Stock.
Dykes’ wife, Sandra, became a third partner in SAS to begin the 1999 season. A new class, IMCA Modified, was added to the weekly lineup. SAS was one of two asphalt tracks in the U.S. running under the IMCA sanction.The Rattler opened the season with the largest field of cars in recent years. After a two-year absence, the Southern All Star Series returned for an April 14th date with Terry Mason Jr. taking the win. Holley sold his interest in the track in June to concentrate on other interest. On July 13th, Bubba Naumann Jr. held off a late charge from Kevin Dicks to take his first career Late Model win. Ronnie Sanders ended the season with a win in a November 18th Late Model race. Track Champions for 1999 were: Heath Mills- Limited Late Model, Royce Johnston- Super Stock, Rege Hellett-IMCA Modified, Jody Henderson-Pure Stock, and Jeff Smith- Street Stock.
2000 brought on cost reduction at SAS. Regular Adult Grandstand admission was reduced to $5.00 , and a new inexpensive class, Roadrunners, was introduced. The season kicked off with a successful Rattler weekend. The Southern All Star series returned in April with Johnny Henderson taking his first series win. The SARA Late Model Sportsman series made its first trip out of its home state of Florida, visiting SAS on June 10. Mike McCreary Jr. won the historic race. Lee Hansard (#89) won a July 22ndLate Model race. The SARA series made a return trip with Bobby Beauchemin taking the win. The season closed with a 125-lap Late Model race that DuWayne Middlebrooks (#10) dominated. IMCA Modified driver Jeff Rudd won 18 features during the season. Track Champions for the season were: Royce Johnston- Limited Late Model, Jody Henderson- Super Stock, Jeff Rudd- IMCA Modified, Jason Kendrick-Street Stock, Harold Hurt- Roadrunner.
Things continued to grow at SAS in 2001. After a competitive Rattler Weekend, the SARA Series made its first of two stops in 2001, with Wayne Morris taking the win in the April Fools Day race. The Southern All Star visited in May with Ronnnie Sanders the winner of the 125-lap event. Lee Hansard returned to South Alabama for a July 14, 125-lap Late Model race, and ended up the same place as his last visit, in Victory Lane. The SARA Series visited again on August 18. This time, eventual series champion Bobby Beauchemin dominated the event. Andy Antinoro won a September 22 Late Model 125. Jody Henderson won the second annual Super Stock 125 and David Smith won a 125-lap Modified race. There were 43 different winners in the 6 local classes. Track champions for the year were: Royce Johnston-Late Model, Bill Brown- Super Stock, Doug Rogers-IMCA Modified, Jeff Smith-Super Street, Blake Streetman- Street Stock, and Tim Hudson-Roadrunner (with 19 Feature wins).
|Kevin Peel matched his car number in Feature wins in 2002. Peel won both races during the Rattler Weekend and went on to capture the season championship.|
|J.R. Norris (11) closes in on Keith Cahela while Dennis Reno Jr (1) battles with Brad Lemley. This action came during the September SuperLate Model 100.|
The 2002 Rattler opened one of the busiest season’s ever at South Alabama. The local Late Model class was dropped from the weekly line up, while the Mini Sportsman Racing Association ran on a bi-weekly basis. The SARA Series made the first of two stops in April with Wayne Morris taking the win. May was a busy month with the Southern All Star SuperTruck Series in town. In the 100-lap feature, Brandon Brown took home his four straight SuperTruck winner’s trophy. The following week, Donald Long held off a late charge from Dale Little to win a 100-lap Super Late Model event. In June, Wayne Willard picked up the first of two 2002 wins at SAS in the Southern All Star 125. Ronnie Sanders won a July 27 Late Model 100. In August, Wayne Morris made in two for two in the SARA Series at SAS. September saw Duwayne Middlebrooks return to victory Lane after a 100-lap Late Model event. There were repeat winner in the Super Stock 125 and Modified 125 as Jody Henderson and David Smith took the wins. Willard took the win in a Late Model 150 in November. Unfortunately, the season ended with a bad accident on the front stretch that tore down part of the catch fence and flag stand. Flagman Jim Thomas was thrown from his perch. Although the scene was ugly, only minor injuries were sustained. Champions for 2002 were Jody Henderson- Super Stock, Kevin Peel- Modified (18 wins), Harold Hurt- Super Street, Brian Martin- Street Stock (17 wins), Sam Smith- Roadrunner, and Ken Younce Sr.- Mini Sportsman.
|The Vintage cars became a regular class at SAS in 2003 and provided plenty of close racing action.|
Will Mack won 15 Roadrunner Features in 2003 on his way to the class championship.
Opening 2003 with the best Rattler in years, South Alabama Speedway again had a busy season. The Rattler saw one of the best fields in recent years, but one driver was missing, Ronnie Sanders. Sanders came back to show who is the king of Late Model racing at South Alabama, winning the next three Super Late Model events. In April, Sanders led the first 74 laps of the race before pitting for tires during the races second caution period. Regan Baker took the lead after the caution, but Sanders retook the lead on lap 89 and went on to win. In May, Billy Melvin took the lead on lap 15 and went on to win a 100-lap O’Reilly Southern All Star SuperTruck Feature. On June 28, Sanders took advantage of Dale Little’s misfortune to score his second win. Little was pulling away from Sanders when his car caught fire with just 17 laps to go. Sanders led the remaining laps to take the win. Sanders came back on August 23 to take his third Late Model victory. Sanders’ crew got him out of the pits first during a lap 53 caution period. He took the lead only one lap after the restart and cruised home for the win. Jody Henderson won the long distance Super Stock race for the third straight year. On October 11, Charlie Bradberry returned to South Alabama to win a $125-lap Super Late Model event. After battling with Dale Little for a couple of laps, Bradberry took the lead on lap 111 and pulled away for a five car length win. To close out the season, the O’Reilly SuperTrucks came to town for the South Alabama Tailgate Party, which featured Twin 100’s for the series, plus the 3rdAnnual Modified 125. Todd Jones took the win in the Modified race, taking the lead on lap 79 and holding off Mike Johnson and Kevin Peel’s late charges. In the first SuperTruck 100, Chris Serio became the series first repeat winner of 2003, in the 12th race. Serio took the lead on lap 33 and led the rest of the way to take the win. In the 2nd feature, eventual series’ Champion David Odell took the lead on lap 52 and went on to win.
Champions for the year were David Ashley- Super Stock, Kevin Peel-Modified, Teddy Sasser- Vintage, Stacy Bedsole- Street Stock, and Will Mack- Roadrunner. There were 42 different winners in the five local classes
The 2004 season got off to a great start with a fantastic Rattler Weekend. The largest field of cars in several years was on hand for the event along with the largest crowd in years. The weekend got the season off in the right direction. In April, Wayne Willard backed up his Rattler win with a win in a 100-lap Late Model race. Willard crashed in afternoon practice when his throttle stuck on the backstretch and he ended up in the bushes surrounding the track’s property. Willard and crew went to work and made repairs. He set fast time in qualifying and then took the lead on lap 3 and led the rest of the way to take the win. On May 8, Jeff Wainwright led all 100 laps to win the O’Reilly Southern All Star SuperTruck race. Bubba Pollard won the 100-lap O’Reilly Southern All Star Pro Late Model Series event on June 5. On August 21 won the Super Late Model 100. Hogan outran such notable drivers as Willard, Wayne Anderson, Gary Helton, and Ken McFarland to take the win. On September 4, Chad Roberts won the 6th Annual Street Stock Maddness. Roberts took the lead with 8 laps to go when Scott Morse’s engine let go. Charlie Bradberry held off Ryan Crane’s late race challenge to win an October 16 Late Model 100. Crane was able to stick his nose under Bradberry with two laps to go, but entered the turn too hot and slid up the track, allowing Bradberry to slip away. Steven Davis won the 5thAnnual Super Stock 125. Scotty Anderson was leading when his engine went sour with 12 laps to go. South Alabama closed out the 2004 season on November 12-13 with the 2nd Annual South Alabama Tailgate Party featuring the O’Reilly Southern All Star SuperTrucks in Twin 100’s. Jeff Wainwright led all 100 laps to win the first night. The second night was postponed twice due to weather. It was finally run on November 28. Okie Mason used a borrowed truck to take the win. Mason had to start in the back, but took the lead on lap 85 and went on to win.
Champions for 2004 were Super Stock- Scotty Anderson (16 wins), Vintage- Duane Bates, Modified- Jamie Ater, Street Stock- Derek Deese, Roadrunner- Jerry Hudson.
The 2005 season got off to the biggest start South Alabama Speedway has seen. The annual Rattler Weekend was the biggest in years, in the pits and grandstands. Donald Long backed up his second place finish in the Rattler with a win in a May 14 Late Model 100. Ronnie Sanders was second, Duwayne Middlebrooks third, Regan Baker fourth, and Wes Loyd fifth. On June 25, Bubba Pollard held off a late race charge by Dale Little to take the win in a June 24 Late Model 100. Long was third with Sanders fourth, and Cale Gale fifth. On August 27, Bradberry and Pollard battled over the last 20 laps in a 100-lap Late Model race. Pollard held off Bradberry for several laps before Bradberry was able to get under Pollard with five laps to go to grab the victory. Ronnie Sanders was third, Scot Smith fourth and Adam Reed fifth. On October 15, Bradberry passed Donnie Wilson on lap 92 to take home the checkers. Wilson finished second, followed by Korey Ruble, Sanders, and Dennis Reno Jr.
Champions for 2005 were Greg Adams- Super Stock, Duane Bates- Vintage, Kevin Peel- Modified, Sam Smith- Street Stock, Jason Singletary- Roadrunner, and Max Nelson- Coyote.