Rome Speedway will celebrate its 50th anniversary tonight with a full slate of racing that owner Mickey Swims believes is going to attract interest from across the Southeast.
The Chevy Performance Parts 525 Super Late Model race will feature a $5,000 purse for the winner while the Rome Boss Super Late Model Race has a $3,000 purse.
“It’ll be a good show for the fans,” Mickey Swims said.
Chase Swims, Mickey’s grandson, said the primary difference between the two races is that the 525 Super Late Model cars have factory engines and the Super Late Models typically feature hand-built engines.
Four other races are on the track’s schedule tonight.
Chase Swims said that because the Rome event is being run on a Sunday night, the races are expected to draw top drivers from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and even further away.
The speedway was founded in 1966 by Roman Garner Snowden.
“He ran two races and then he shut it down,” said Mickey Swims, who bought the dirt track in 1969 and has been operating it ever since.
He owned a drag strip in Cumming before he bought the Rome track at 1933 Chulio Road, then added Dixie Speedway in Woodstock and the West Atlanta Raceway.
“We would run Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday night and called it the Tri-Racing Circuit,” he said. “We’re doing great here.”
The mystique of the dirt track, he said, has an incredible appeal to racing fans.
“They want to see action, they don’t want to see the cars run behind each other,” he said. “They want to see them run side-by-side — two and three deep, sometimes four deep — rubbing (sides) and sparks flying. That’s what they see here at Rome.”
The 1,000-horsepower engines in the Super Late cars can cost $60,000 and up. That’s a lot of money for “dirt track heroes,” Mickey said, but what they do with it is even more impressive.
“Some of the guys that come in here are going to have just as nice a rig as the NASCAR people have gotten, but they’ve only got $100,000 in their cars,” he said. “The NASCAR teams have millions of dollars invested.”
The younger Swims said most of the drivers are financing their hobby by themselves. He suspects as many as half the drivers who will race in Rome tonight would love to climb the competitive ladder in the stock car racing world.
“The other half are weekend warriors who just want to have fun and do it as a hobby,” Chase said.
The elder Swims said Rome is a super-fast racetrack and speeds tonight would approach 140 miles per hour.
Gates open at 5 p.m. and racing starts around 7:30 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults, $6 for children ages 9-17, while kids 8 and under get in free.