A visit to Volunteer Speedway in Bulls Gap, TN

I took in night #9 of Ray Cook’s Southern Nationals at Volunteer Speedway in Bull’s Gap, Tennessee. The big picture is this: “The Gap” is a spectacular racing surface, and its surrounded by an excellent, fan friendly facility. I am much less enthusiastic about how they presented their show, but what a cool place it would be to race!

The fans sit high above the racing surface, and have a great and unobstructed view of the whole track. Its well lit, the speakers work, and the announcers really know their stuff. Gotta love that Southern accent too!

The track is advertised as a 4/10 mile, but it looked smaller than that to me. Its got the highest banks of any dirt track I’ve ever seen, and I bet that place is 12 lanes wide. The result is that the drivers barely crack the throttle going into the corners, then they mash it and do all they can to avoid eating the concrete. A track like this has to win over new fans to our sport: the cars are going so damn fast in a small space, and the races were pretty wild.

On the other hand, I thought track management did just about everything wrong. Consider the following list: hot laps begin at 9, time trials end at 10:15, National Anthem at 10:30, and the first race didn’t go green until 10:45!

Also, every car in every class had to time trial, and then every race started straight up. Restarts were single file, and they obviously held the yellow flag so some drivers could work on their car! One time, a front-runner had a flat, and the wrecker stopped part way on the track to pick it up so the crew could work on it. This resulted in 10 extra yellow flag laps and a big chaotic scene in the pits. Jeez…

This night only had 3 classes, and they ran features only. There were supposed to be B mains for the SLM tour, but those were cancelled “because of time constraints”.

I love the surface, and the racing is fast and interesting. The quality of the show PALES in comparison to many Florida tracks. Yep, you heard that right; the Florida dirt shows are much better. I wish some of our track staff had a track like that to run in our state.

They had a good solid crowd (1500?), and no one seemed bothered by the short comings of the show. Everyone was in a good mood and I have to admit that this track had the electric atmosphere that most of ours are looking for.

The Southern National tour is a neat concept: 10 races in 14 days, and each paid $5300 to win. The drivers who took part were regional stars, I’m surprised that more big names didn’t show.

I was there a few years back. We got out really late but it was a pretty good show that moved along. I like the park and view in the back stretch, I have only seen one other track in West Virginia do that.