Who’s the best ever to race at Senoia?


It’s always an interesting debate over who people consider the most famous drivers to have ever raced at Senoia Raceway, the 3/8-mile dirt oval that opened in 1969. My casual research tells me that the choices depend on a person’s perspective.

I asked Glenn Morris, driver of the No. 27 in Limited Late Model. His list of famous Senoia alumni includes drivers like Leon Sells, Roscoe Smith, Doug Kenimer, the late Leon Archer and others who are well past their racing years and all now members of the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.

Glenn also pointed out that many of today’s Senoia fans don’t even known about the drivers that he and I and a lot of other graybeards grew up watching.

So I asked Ashton Winger, a 16-year-old Late Model driver. His three picks reflected the difference in ages between Glenn and myself. He chose Clint Smith, Shane Clanton and Bubba Pollard. Another youngster, Austin Horton, weighed in, naming Clanton and Smith.

The truth is there are a lot of famous drivers who have raced at Senoia over the years, including the era when the track was paved.

Without doing any heavy lifting I came up with four drivers who won races at Senoia that went on to win races in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.

The most successful of that quartet is Joey Logano, who spent his 13th birthday at Senoia – a day he well remembers. He hit the wall in his Late Model on May 24, 2003, and broke his arm.

But he showed great promise in his Senoia days, and fellow drivers like Ronnie Sanders and Doug Stevens, now one of the promoters at Senoia, helped teach him the finer points of racing. He now has 15 Sprint Cup victories and 25 more in the Xfinity Series.

David Ragan, a two-time winner in Cup and Xfinity, got his first Legends victory at Senoia in the early 1990s.

Joe Nemechek, who has four Cup victories along with 16 wins and a championship in the Xfinity Series, won a race at Senoia.

Jody Ridley, who raced at Senoia both on dirt and asphalt and is among the track’s former winners, also has a Cup win, at Dover International Speedway.

That’s more than 70 major wins by Senoia alumni. And there are more.

Another Senoia driver from back in the dirt days, Mike Helton, went on to become one of NASCAR’s most powerful executives.

If you don’t believe that Saturday nights back in the day at Senoia helped shape the future of NASCAR, listen what Helton said recently about his Senoia mentor, Roscoe Smith: “Roscoe is a great friend of mine and did so much to help me in my years at Atlanta when I was pretending to be a race driver. He had so much mechanical ability, and his skills as a teacher were very impressive. Still today I think of things Roscoe taught me along the way.”

[Rick Minter, a life-long resident of Fayette County, has been reporting on automobile races since 1976. He also owns Minter’s Farm and co-hosts the annual Inman Farm Heritage Days.]