Racing in the dirt

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Sixty-four years old and still sporting the fastest 1,650 feet of dirt in Georgia. That is an up-to-date description of Toccoa Raceway, which hosts stock car racing every Saturday night from early April through Labor Day weekend. The 5/16ths-of-a-mile track sports a variety of racing classifications...

  • Cars running two across roar down the straightaway during a feature race at Toccoa Raceway. Photo racingin.com
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Sixty-four years old and still sporting the fastest 1,650 feet of dirt in Georgia.

That is an up-to-date description of Toccoa Raceway, which hosts stock car racing every Saturday night from early April through Labor Day weekend.

The 5/16ths-of-a-mile track sports a variety of racing classifications that can draw up to 110 cars with their drivers and pit crews, and hundreds of racing fans packed into the grandstands.

Toccoa resident and Georgia Racing Hall of Fame member Charles Head has done trackside announcing at Toccoa Raceway off and on for the last 45 years (every Saturday night the last nine years) and has witnessed many of the most recent changes at the track site.

“The current promoters of Toccoa Raceway, Mike and Jackie Davidson, have cleaned the place up both as far as physical appearance, as well as the demeanor of the participants and fans,” Head said.

“The name change from Toccoa Speedway to Toccoa Raceway — they want folks to be sure that they know there is a difference from the old rough and tumble days to an organized, professional facility the we experience today,” Head said.

The track was first opened on May 6, 1955, by Garland Sheriff. There’s been racing there ever since, making Toccoa Raceway the oldest continuously operating racetrack in Georgia.

Head’s been a big Toccoa Raceway fan since the early days and recalls one of his favorite stories.

“One of my daddy’s favorite drivers was Tootle Estes, who I thought showed up one night with a polka dot race car,” Head said. “I was talking to Jimmy Mostellar, who was the first announcer at the track, about remembering that car. ‘Well,’ Mr. Jimmy said, ‘I do remember Tootle showed up with 2-1/2-inch holes drilled all over the body of his car. He won the race that night by a huge margin. The next week, all the drivers had holes drilled in their cars.’”

Jule Coffee of Habersham County has been interviewing race winners in Victory Lane at Toccoa Raceway for about 15 years.

 

Jule Coffee interviews winning driver Harley Holden at the Toccoa Raceway after a race. Coffee has been interviewing drivers in Toccoa Raceway's victory lane for about 15 years. (Submitted photo)
Jule Coffee interviews winning driver Harley Holden at the Toccoa Raceway after a race. Coffee has been interviewing drivers in Toccoa Raceway's victory lane for about 15 years. (Submitted photo)

 

Not only does he interview drivers and posts those interviews on social media, he’s also announcing live to the trackside crowd.

“I know a good bit about the drivers,” he said. “I get to know about their family life and sponsors. If it was not for their sponsors, it would be expensive for them. So, I let them talk about their sponsors when I interview them.”

It’s fun, he said.

“When you’re having fun, you are not working,” Coffee said. “I am 68 years young and I feel like a kid having fun.”

He especially likes one of the racing traditions at Toccoa Raceway — every time a driver wins his first race, he gets rolled in the mud, a “kinda victory shower,” Coffee said.

“The biggest thing that sticks out to me is when I see a driver win their first race,” he said. “They finally done it. I like to see the smiles on their face and I like to see them get rolled in the mud.”

He likes winners, too.

“I like to see people get first [place],” Coffee said. “Some people are happy getting second or third, but seeing someone get first brings a lot of joy to them — big smiles and sometimes tears of joy.”

Racing divisions at Toccoa Raceway include limited late model, pro late model, sportsman, modified street, stock 4, stock V-8, pro truck and Young Guns. The raceway hosts some big-time money races, too. A super late model feature race was planned in April with first place prize money established at $10,000, the largest winner’s purse in the track’s storied 64-year history.

Unfortunately, the event was postponed due to rain and will be staged at a later date during the 2019 season.

Notable events remaining on the 2019 schedule are the July 3 Extravaganza featuring a fireworks display and the Kings of the High Banks playoff series that starts in August.

There will be a Labor Day celebration Sept. 1, which will include a fireworks display.

Regular program admission costs $12 and trackside parking costs $30. Special event admission varies depending on the event. The track boasts a souvenir shop and a concession stand.