One of the surprises of the season was Franklin County Speedway, a track that had solid car counts with deep fields and tough competition. However, the bright spot that was Franklin County Speedway has turned to darkness once more.
Property owner Donald “Whitey” Taylor did what he does best. Evidently frustrated by the success the track was having, Taylor forced Austin out at Franklin County Speedway and will take over operations of the track himself. If this story sounds familiar, that’s because this is more of an encore presentation than a sequel.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Langley Austin is the owner of Race22.com.)
Fulfilling a lifelong dream, Austin leased the track out in 2013 from Taylor, his biological father. After struggling in the first season as he attempted to lay down a foundation, 2014 saw a revival of the 3/8-mile track in Callaway, Virginia. Fan counts improved, car counts increased and the track had credibility and was set to host a Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model race. However, that race would not happen.
Things fell apart on the night of June 7th.
Taylor had demanded the track staff promote a mud bog event he had planned, which they did even though there was no obligation to do so. However, Taylor, frustrated by the track’s success, lashed out because the track was not dedicating all of their time to his event and remained focused on the task at hand, so he went off on a spectacular display of douchebaggery – one that would make “President” Trump’s early morning tweets green with envy.
The fallout from that night resulted in Austin’s departure from the track, PASS cancelling their event and the track falling into a state of decline despite the valiant efforts of Timmy Wheat to revive it.
In 2016, Austin and Taylor reconciled and Austin returned to Franklin County Speedway. Once again, Austin found himself trying to simply lay a foundation as he sought to increase the car counts and improve the crowds. He saw the fruits of his labor in 2017.
Mike Looney, Kelly Kingery, Dennis Holdren, Kyle Dudley, Jason York and Ross “Boo Boo” Dalton were among those who came to Franklin County Speedway to compete in the season opening race. The field was one of the deepest fields in all of Late Model Stock Car racing – a pleasant surprise in an otherwise depressing season that has been dominated by discussion about a “SPEC” motor instead of excitement about the on-track racing action.
On June 3rd, Austin continued his success when hosting a demolition derby event that drew one of the largest crowds in the track’s 48-year history. So, naturally…
“Unfortunately, the one thing we all knew was possible to kill things off happened,” a statement on the Franklin County Speedway Facebook page read. “Whitey Taylor has stepped in to make sure we don’t continue as, in his words, ‘he wasn’t making enough money and we were making too much’ even though we have lived up to every obligation we had with him. We first encountered an issue the Thursday after the Night of Destruction event after having one of the largest crowds in the tracks last three decades. Apparently, according to family members of Taylor, this was enough to make him angry and demand that we not run anymore races there.”
Austin said he did everything he could, short of going through the lengthy legal process, to keep the 2017 season alive at Franklin County Speedway.
“We worked last week to settle the issue and thought things could continue on as planned,” the statement continued. “Unfortunately, Taylor had other plans. As we received a message from one of the race car owners that he heard Taylor was taking over. After our previous issues were resolve,d we wanted to make sure everything was good to go and texted him as such. He said we ‘could work for him’ and he was going to ‘make a million dollars just like he did in 1986’.”
Franklin County Speedway was producing quality and competitive fields while also producing the thrilling racing the track has been known for over the years. Old school racers, who are looking for old school racing, congregated to Callaway to race hard and have fun without having to worry about soaring costs.
While the track will apparently remain open, the chances that the success Austin had at Franklin County will continue are about the same as the chances of Melissa Benoist literally flying to Lucama, North Carolina and asking me to marry her. Anything’s possible I guess. 🙄
I find myself with an empty feeling now that Franklin County Speedway will once again fall into a state of decline and disrepair. I also find myself angry that this has happened again, that another successful revival of one of the most exciting tracks in the country has been squashed by an owner with a fragile ego.
Perhaps this time, Franklin County Speedway should be allowed to be overtaken by nature so hope can’t be given to its racers and fans just to be taken away just as quickly.