April 17, 2014 9:33:00 PM
Kelley Carlton knows all about Magnolia Motor Speedway.
Carlton worked for years for B.J. Parker, who started the Southern All Stars Dirt Racing Series in 1983, and raced at MMS, which bills itself "The South's Premier Dirt Track."
This weekend, Carlton will be back at MMS as series director of the National Dirt Racing League Kings of Dirt Series. On Thursday, the NDRL Series kicked off a three-day extravaganza with a three-hour practice session and welcome party for its fans. Tonight and Saturday, there will be two shows and $20,000 possible to win for Super Late Models. There also will be money in local divisions.
Tonight, a $7,500-to-win event will highlight the Super Late Model event. On Saturday, there will be a $12,500-to-win event. NeSmith Late Models and NeSmith Street Stocks also will have complete shows each night. Mini Stocks will compete Saturday night.
Carlton said the NDRL, which is in its second season, leased Magnolia Motor Speedway from owner Johnny Stokes after both sides talked in December in Indianapolis at a performance racing show. He said the quality of the facilities at MMS was attractive to the NDRL and that it realized Stokes had recently purchased the track and was interested in bringing new events to Columbus.
"Magnolia Motor Speedway produces some of the best races in the country," Carlton said. "It is by far one of the best race tracks on this side of the Mississippi."
MMS will play host to the NDRL's 15th event of the season. In its second season, the NDRL is a national series that will feature 39 events, including nine non-points events in Arizona and Texas. The series also will include stops in East Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina, Ohio, and Arkansas.
Carlton said 17 drivers have had perfect attendance at the first 14 events of the season. He said sponsorships help the drivers defray some of the costs of competing on national circuit. He said drivers in the top 10 receive a stipend to help cover travel expenses.
Carlton said $20,000 is a "fairly big purse" just for Super Late Models, but that he was encouraged to see more than 20 campers in the pit area Thursday filled with fans who were ready to see this weekend's action. Those fans enjoyed food and drink as part of a welcome party Carlton said was designed to reach out to the fans and to give them a voice.
"Our goal when we started the program was to do it a little different than what was already out there," Carlton said. "We try to make everybody feel welcome. When we have time and we're not always on the go racing, doing things with the fans is really important."
Carlton hopes the weather will cooperate this weekend so the NDRL can attract huge crowds both evenings. He knows MMS is a high-quality facility, so he is excited to give Golden Triangle racing fans large-purse event "to hang their hats on."
"Last year, (NDRL owner) John (Kennedy) put his foot into the water to see how cold it was and had five special events," Carlton said. "He wanted to spread out and do a complete series. This year has been really, really successful so far and we have done some great events and some great racing and have had some great fan turnouts. We are expecting the same thing in Columbus."
Tonight, the NDRL Super Late Model division will feature a 40-lap, $7,500-to-win event. NeSmith Late Models will battle for $800-to-win, NeSmith Street Stocks will be in action for $400-to-win. The pit gates will open at 2 p.m. The grandstands will open at 5 p.m. The driver's meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Racing will begin at 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday, a 60-lap, $12,500-to-win NDRL Super Late Model event will headline the action. NeSmith Late Models will race for $1,000-to-win.
Street Stocks will race for $600-to-win, and Mini Stocks will battle for $300-to-win. The pit gates will open at 1 p.m. The grandstands will open at 4 p.m. The driver's meeting will be at 6 p.m. Racing will begin at 7 p.m.
Also, at 5 p.m. Saturday there will be a kids Easter egg hunt.
Adult grandstand admission is $50 for a two-day pass. Tonight, adult grandstand admission is $25. On Saturday, it will be $30. Kids 10 and under are free all days with student ID. Military or public servant (police, fire, EMT) will receive a discount of $5 off any ticket price with identification. You must have ID at gate to receive discount.
Tonight, adult pit admission is $35. On Saturday, adult pit admission is $40. Kids 10 and under are free all days with student ID. Military or public servant (police, fire, EMT) will receive a discount of $5 off any ticket price with identification. You must have ID at gate to receive discount.
Trackside parking is available for additional $30 for parking spot in any unreserved spot.
For more information, call Johnny Stokes at 662-574-2572, the track at 662-240-3478, or visit www.MagnoliaDirt.com.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.