Words by Joel “Yeti” Stewart
Photos by Mike Belleme
For my entire life my grandmother, Mabel Purdy Stewart, has lived in Taccoa GA. Aside from the holidays with my grammy, the town has never done much for me. Toccoa is essentially a suburban pit stop on the road to Atlanta. The main strip, flanked by little league fields and shopping centers, serves as the economic artery of the surrounding rural areas. This classic American scenario leaves much to be desired by the average traveler and usually serves as nothing more than a place to take a piss and grab a Cheerwine. Several weeks ago on a trip to Toccoa to pack up my grandmotherís tiny apartment, my father and I spotted a sign for the Toccoa Raceway. Attempting to impede the inevitable moving of Grammys stuff, we stopped to investigate. I immediately called Mike and told him that it was time to go to the races. Here we have some images of the utter joy that is experienced every Saturday night in one of Americaís most boring towns.
First stop out of Asheville was Echo Valley S.C. The gas station features an ostrich, an emu, and a fucked up goat all living together in a big field. God bless you South Carolina.
I drove. It was hot and I was pretty much devastatingly hung over.
I suffered severe sunburn on my ìout the window armî. It would blister and hurt badly in the days to follow.
We stopped off at my Aunt Susanís house to see my SC family and check out the sheep. They were truly creatures of vanity.
Then on to Toccoa. We hit the BBQ Shack for some chopped hog and iced tea. Every table features a pitcher of sweet tea and a loaf of sunbeam white bread. YES PLEASE!
The racetrack is just up the strip from the BBQ Shack. Our guts plump with grease, we cruised up the red clay drive to check out the early birds. The cars race on dirt so the track consists only of hard packed red clay mud.
We showed up early and were greeted by the lovely ticket girl. There only other person there was a man named Bill and his wife who did not speak or sit beside him. Through a golf ball sized lump of chewing tobacco he explained the history and rules of dirt track racing. He explained that the water truck soaks the track to keep the dust down. He told us about drivers as young as 14 racing competitively. Coincidentally 14 year old Russ Mcrackin was to race that night in the #16 orange Camero.
As the fans and drivers arrived we had to holler at some boiled peanuts.
The G.R.I.T.S. cheerleading squad was turning heads all over the place.
Mike and I stuck out likeÖ
Öwell like a couple of sissy ass city bitches at a dirt track race. This fact however did not stop Amanda Blackwell and her family from totally embracing us and showing us the deal at the track and what drivers to look out for. We met her three sons Colby, Malachi, and Tilman, (2,3,4) all of whom where avid race fans. Half of the family had wanted to go camping that evening and half wanted to go the race. Colby, the youngest, when asked which he wanted to do cast the winning vote by exclaiming “VROOM VROOM!!”
Lexus is Amandaís Daughter and is working on a book about the Toccoa Dirt track. Many have tried to exploit the work that she has put into her project but she and her mother are looking to publish the book independently.
The Race attracts old timers and young guns alike. I was totally impressed at the intergenerational harmony that was occurring at this event.
The drivers spend hours before the race getting the cars ready. They race in class based on engine size and car weight.
This guy has the best job in America. When he waves the green flag, all engines roar and one can do nothing but yell like hell.
This is Randy Burshers. A week prior to our visit, he believed that he had won the race for his division. Race officials believed that he had not. Extensive profanity and doughnuts in the parking lot ensued. He was told not to return to the track less he be turned over to the law. Under the radar of track officials and just outside the fence he watched as his son raced, for he feared the other drivers and track officials would bully his son on the track.
The drivers and their crews spend the majority of the night getting the cars ready and keeping them running.
Bad Boy McCoy traded cars with a friend from the same garage for this race McCoy’s car caught on fire mid race while he went on to win the race in the other car.
Amanda took Mike to hangout and meet some the drivers and get up close to the cars.
I want to love something as much as this family loves racing.
Lexus and Malachi