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Lost Tracks of Georgia: Banks County Speedway

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Just because a race track is included in our Lost Tracks doesn’t mean it can’t endure.

With the right amount of dedication and community support, even a dormant track can be turned into something special. In the tiny farm town of Baldwin in Northeast Georgia, that is exactly what has happened at Banks County Speedway.

The track’s story seemed to end more than 50 years ago, but its founding family has refused to let it go and has breathed new life into this historic facility.

Join Joe VanHoose and Brandon Reed as they uncover the story of Banks County Speedway and how this lost track of Georgia was found.

Enjoy the watch? Check out other episodes of the Lost Tracks of Georgia series, including Athens Speedway, a racetrack laid dormant for over 30 years. Learn more about the Classic City’s 3/8-mile raceway on Jimmy Daniel Road. Or if the written word is more your speed, Joe gives a glimpse at the end of asphalt racing in North Georgia.

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About our Lost Tracks of Georgia series: Racing history fans Joe VanHoose and Brandon Reed have two things in common: their love of dirt track racing and affinity towards telling a good story. In this series, the two combine their loves and dive into the history and current state of several of the state’s famous dirt track races. With the help of cinematographer Scott Hartman, Lost Tracks looks to tell the stories that brought thousands of racing fans together in the Peach State.

Have an idea of a track to explore or a story to tell? Drop us a line and let us know which raceway we should explore in future editions of the series. We’ll also take submitted photos and videos of racetracks we’re highlighting. You never know, maybe we’ll share on social media or in one of our videos.

Lost Tracks of Georgia: Athens Speedway

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It’s been 30 years since race cars have roared around Athens Speedway. Looking around the place, you can tell. 

A mature patch of woods now covers the old race track property off Jimmy Daniel Road in Athens. If you didn’t know there was a ⅜-mile dirt track and long stretch of concrete grandstands sitting in the shadows of the pines off the two-lane road, you wouldn’t even think to look. 

Running through Copenhagen: An on-the-ground perspective

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Denmark's waterside architecture on display. Photo Courtesy of Lauren Heighton

You can come to know a city through the people you meet and the streets you run. 

The statement proves true in Athens, a city with established running clubs and newly built running paths. As a freshman at UGA, I was out of my comfort zone when I moved to Athens. Exploring the city on foot was how I transitioned from feeling like a visitor to taking on the city as my own. Getting a little lost on a side street off Prince Avenue helped me to remember it better the next time.

However, running in a new city, across the world, forced me to understand it even more quickly.

Macon ‘Movie magic’: Luther Williams Field reborn

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Photo courtesy of maconga.org

Most days of the Macon Bacon’s home games, Luther Williams Field plays host to 3,200 fans in the ballpark. On other days, 100-250 people enter the gates. 

It’s not because of weather or poor play – it’s just film crews setting up to shoot in one of the nation’s oldest ballparks.

First opened in 1929, Luther Williams Field, named for a former mayor of Macon, has been home to many minor league and amature teams and is full of history. It is also the perfect locale for filmmakers who need a period ballpark backdrop – playing a part in the large Macon film scene and growing Georgia movie market.

A Race Track or Ghost town? Asphalt in North Georgia

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Brandon Reed is a writer by trade, so you have to take his stories with a reasonable amount of skepticism. Our imaginations can get away from us and then linger around, gently nudging our memories into a narrative often greater, wilder and more outstanding than the sum of reality. 

But Suzanne Reed, Brandon’s wife, is a reasonable person. And she has a ghost story, too. 

Brandon was the public relations manager at Peach State Speedway in Jefferson, Georgia, back in the early 2000s. One day, he heard a race car going around the half-mile speedway at race speed from inside the track office. 

Thinking there was a test session going on that he didn’t know about, he raced outside only to see an empty track, no car haulers, race cars or anyone else in sight.

Days later, Suzanne stopped by the track to see her husband and asked him what drivers were there that day to test. 

In fact, no one was. The track was empty.

Food for the Soul and Spirit

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Photo of Shirley Combs courtesy of Joe VanHoose

By all accounts, Shirley’s Soul Food shouldn’t work.

No customers showed up to the grand opening. The restaurant is run by Shirley Combs, whose main career is driving a Stephens County school bus every day. It’s all she can do after her morning shift to come in and cook everything in time to open by 11:30, only to be back on the bus at 2. 

The 66-year-old Toccoa native says she hasn’t been anywhere — save for regular trips to the Chick-Fil-A down the road in Lavonia to get ice cream. 

But the Lord works in mysterious ways, and Combs’ story has reached across the country. After an opening in 2000 where her only customers were homeless, Shirley’s Soul Food has become a Northeast Georgia institution over the last two decades.