LUCAMA, NC – A night at the track produces memories that can last a lifetime for many who attend races at Southern National Motorsports Park and that proved true in 2017.
The highlight of the season for many fans was the 17th Thanksgiving Classic presented by Solid Rock Carriers – the annual, three-day event that caps off the racing calendar. This year’s Thanksgiving Classic was the second richest race of the year in Late Model Stock Car racing and drew a large field of cars across the board and an even larger congregation of fans.
“The whole Thanksgiving Classic,” Jeff Holland said on Facebook. “Despite what some would say, it was one of the best Classics.”
“The Thanksgiving Classic, I think it was the biggest ever,” David Wiggins stated on Facebook. “Great job all year.”
For many fans who attend the races regularly, their favorite thing is just being at the track.
67-year-old Wayne Barefoot from Benson, North Carolina makes it to the track any chance he gets, sitting in a trackside spot in turn four and watching all the action with his family.
“I just enjoy going to the races, whether it’s Late Models or Super Late Models,” Barefoot stated. “I’m over in the fourth turn and they wreck there and it’s kind of exciting. I just love the race as a whole, I enjoy racing. My wife and daughter, and her boyfriend, we always go there when we can.”
Wilson resident Cassie Gurley is one of Southern National Motorsports Park’s most enthusiastic race fans. Gurley has attended races at Southern National for years and has been
“Loved watching Mason Diaz grow up from running Bandoleros to becoming the 2017 Late Model champion,” Gurley said. “I couldn’t have been any happier. I have pulled for this young driver for five years. So proud of his goals and what his next step is going to be.”
Gurley is a longtime fan who often helps organize fundraisers for the community. However, on Saturday nights, she can be seen in her trackside spot enjoying the racing action.
“Southern National is my favorite hometown track,” she explained. “Good racing, great racing family, clean and nicest facility around to bring your family for enjoyment and family time. Thanks to the Diaz family for giving us a great place to enjoy short track racing and his staff for all they do.”
The 2017 season also played host to the Day of Destruction, the first demolition derby event in the Michael Diaz era at Southern National Motorsports Park. The more than one thousand fans in attendance were treated to plenty of hits and smashes during the thrilling and, at one point, fiery event.
“The event I liked the most was the Day of Destruction,” Dustin Morton stated on Facebook. His sentiments were echoed by others.
“I think two will be good for this coming year,” Billy Bennett stated.
For other fans, 2017 brought them their first opportunity to race after sitting in the stands thanks to the addition of the Any Car class as well as the U-CAR class which ran at the Thanksgiving Classic on a rulebook that reduced costs.
“Finally got to race there after being in the stands for 20 years,” Bill Mozingo, who competed in the U-CAR portion of the Thanksgiving Classic, explained. “My first race was 2017 Thanksgiving Classic. The track ran into many setbacks but handled them like pros and put on a one of a kind show with more cars there then I’ve seen anywhere. Thanks for the accommodations and how hard track staff worked to get it done. Be back to try quite a few more races in Any Car and U-CAR division next season.”
While the season was action packed, the 2017 season also saw its share of tragedy for the Southern National Motorsports Park racing family. Longtime track supporter Ashley Stott and engine builder Mike Harrell both lost their lives in 2017 and were honored at the track after their passing.
Stott was remembered in a race in early August which was run in his name.
“It meant a lot for Southern National to do a tribute for Ashley Stott,” Gurley said. “He loved the track and did a lot of things not only for Southern National but he loved to drive the Red Rock monster truck for the kids as well as the cornhole tournament. He was just an outstanding guy to everyone that he came in contact with. It was a great turnout that night for him. Very emotional but great idea for his family and friends. Rest in piece Ashley Stott and thanks Southern National for all you do whether racing or memorials for loved ones.”
Harrell was remembered at the Spooktacular in early October, before rain washed out the race during the tribute in pre-race ceremonies.
“The tribute that Southern National did for Mike and dedicating the Spooktacular race to Mike means more than us than we can put into words,” Mary Harrell stated, speaking on behalf of herself, Emily and Erin Lyda and Ray Harrell. “Even though the event ended up being rained out, it was still an amazing tribute.
“The fact that Michael Diaz, Lisa and James Stroud, John Jones, Jonathan Kornegay, Michael O’Brien, the track staff and drivers went above and beyond to show respect, love and admiration for Mile that day means the world to each of us. The song ‘You Should Be Here’ from Canaan James was absolutely beautiful and, after speaking to him at another event, was truly from the heart. Mike put a lot of years, blood, sweat and even tears into Southern National and it was humbling to see the amount of respect paid to him.”