Mobile International Speedway is under new management.
Following a failed attempt to purchase the half-mile in 2016, local racer Jason Smith reached an agreement with outgoing promoter Charlie Lyons and owner Ida Hatfield to work at the speedway as technical director.
The past season has been a turbulent one and with the Lyons opting to move-on this spring, the track was leased-out to Smith over the weekend.
This has been a dream of Smith’s for quite a while and he’s excited to begin working to restore the track to its previous luster.
“Even though I’m from Mississippi, Mobile is my home track,” Smith told Short Track Scene over the weekend. “That was my home away from home. I’ve leveraged a whole lot to be able to do this.
“In poker terms, I’m ‘all-in’ and I wouldn’t have done this for any other track. I believe I’m going to be able to reach the racer because I am a racer. I’ve been a racer all these years and I think that’s what we’ve needed.”
The track will retain its previously announced schedule, one that does not feature Late Models of any kind, and work on expanding in the coming years.
The track hosted the Mobile 300 last October, a three-day show that was besieged by rain and terribly-low car counts for the Pro Late Models on Saturday night and Southern Super Series Super Late Models on Sunday afternoon.
Just 13 cars started the $10,000-to-win race and several local drivers and Pro Late Model teams complained that they did not get paid.
As a result, the schedule the Lyons put together for 2019 emphasized the local divisions, but Smith says his multiyear plan includes Late Models and national touring divisions.
“We have a 10-year plan,” Smith said. “I want ARCA back at Mobile International Speedway. ARCA was there for a few years and we lost it. There were multiple reasons why, but nevertheless, I want it back. I don’t know if it will take four or five years, but we definitely want it back. Mobile deserves an ARCA date. That track deserves it and fans support it.
“We had the Bandit Big Rig Series back this year and I hope we can get them back. Maybe next year we can look at Pro Late Models and then after that, we can start looking at Super Late Models. But the 300-lap Super Late Model race didn’t work in 2018 and it would be crazy to think it would work in 2019. Maybe 2020 and beyond, there will be a plan to make it make more sense.”
To that end, Thursday’s practice session for local divisions will see reduced $15 rates for drivers and $5 wristbands for everyone else who wants to go in the infield.
“Our local divisions produce some of the closest racing you could ever see, we’re talking door-to-door across the line,” Smith said. “Even when we’ve had Late Models, they’re the show that people talk about.
“We need to make sure we’re reaching them. We need to get them to the track and they’ll bring people who want to see them race and then we can work on building up from there.”
Smith hopes that some of the drivers, or teams, that expressed boycotts will give the track a new chance under new management — even the Late Model teams that said they’ll never come back.
“Everyone knows the Mobile 300 was a disaster,” Smith said. “There’s no denying it. My job was in the tech shed and I did my part and to my knowledge there wasn’t much that went wrong there. There’s always little things that happen over the course of race day to be worked out in the tech shed, but I wasn’t responsible for the things that went wrong with the Mobile 300.
“So, I want to tell everyone to give Mobile a chance. We’re going to work really hard to bring this track back to what we all remember.”