Dixie Speedway welcomes fast cars and loyal fans back home in Woodstock

Thousands of fans were in attendance for the reopening of Woodstock's beloved Dixie Speedway after a two-year hiatus.
Grandstands filled with visitors at Dixie Speedway (Courtesy of Mitchell Jenkins)

“Drivers, start your engines.”

The intercom announcement kicks off not only the gears of race cars, but also the commencement of a long-awaited family reunion of sorts.

On a late Saturday afternoon in April, a large crowd is gathered at Dixie Speedway, an intimate race track nestled in Woodstock.

With over 5,000 seats and a property that spans 150 acres, there is a hustle and bustle throughout every corner.

“When we heard [about the event] we’re like, ‘Oh we gotta go,'” said spectator Catherine Gunther as she glanced around the track. “And apparently so did everyone else and their mother.”

Despite major differences in age, race and gender, one major connection has managed to bring the thousands in attendance together as one — the reopening of the beloved speedway after a two-year hiatus.

“Welcome back,” belted the enthusiastic voice through the intercoms across the track. “Dixie Speedway gathers friends and family to enjoy the world’s greatest spectator sport stock car racing.”

Or “dirt track racing” as fan Dillon Cribbs proudly refers to it.

“Nothing else in the world like it,” he said. “This place has been a staple in the community for years.”

Racing fan Dillon Cribbs stands outside of The Dixie Speedway on April 6, 2024. (Julien Virgin/WABE)

If Dixie feels like a family environment to those who have patronized it for years, all credit has to go the Swims, the beloved family who has owned the speedway for nearly 50 years.

Mickey Swims bought the track with his wife Martha in 1976, eight years after the construction of the property.

“It was asphalt when I bought it. And I took the asphalt and [soon], the cars increased, the crowds increased,” remembered Mickey.

Martha worked with her husband on daily operations around the track, handling bookkeeping and other administrative details. She passed away in 2022 after losing her battle with cancer. The two had been together for 60 years.

“I know she’s better off now, because she was suffering,” she said, “And I prayed for God if she couldn’t get well for him to take her home and he did.”

Despite the sadness of his loss, Mickey Swims says that he is happy for Dixie to be back and even more grateful for the track’s loyal fanbase.

Dixie Speedway owner Mickey Swims sits inside of his truck while waiting for races to commence. (Julien Virgin/WABE)

“I’m thankful for all the drivers and their support and their family. I’m thankful for the fans. I really, really am,” said Swims, noting that it is the love of the sport rather than the financial revenue that has kept him and Dixie gearing all of these years.

“Money ain’t got to do with it,” he said. “I just love it.”

“As long as he’s at a racetrack, he’s happy,” said Chase Swims of his grandfather. “I think people are always surprised to find out that he is 84 years old because he just has so much life and energy when he’s around racing.”

The younger Swims looks around at the turnout, with lines turning around the building to gain entry.

“[It’s] so humbling to see that, like, they didn’t forget about you, you know?” he said. “It’s like they’ve been waiting on it. They’re excited to be here again.”

With the reopening, Chase and his grandfather anticipated giving the fans something to remember. By the smiles of fans and the cheering of the crowd, he feels that they may have accomplished their mission.

Dixie Speedway grandstands filled with fans (Courtesy of Mitchell Jenkins)

“My biggest goal was to just entertain the people that have made it their Saturday. Like how long have they been looking forward to this?” he noted.

“This is the reason that we came here tonight is because we knew that there’s gonna be a crap ton of fans, and we’re going to try to put on the best show that we can for everybody here,” added Chatsworth driver Hayden Swaney, who has been racing on the track since the age of 12.

“I just love being at this place, man. This place is awesome.”

Fans load into the Dixie Speedway Grand Stands on April 6, 2024 in Woodstock, Ga. (Courtesy of Mitchell Jenkins)

The return race was a calendar appointment for fans such as Cribbs, who drove six hours out from Brunswick

“This is a Saturday now where the whole community and all that will come together. It don’t matter if you’re Black, you’re white, you’re Hispanic, it don’t matter,” he said. “You can come out here and watch them do.”

And for some racing enthusiasts, like 17-year-old drive Greer Cofield, the dust and dirt of the speedway are practically born into them.

“I’ve grown up here … played in the dirt plenty of times,” said Cofield, who grew up with Dixie and is now debuting for the first time as a racer on the track.

Driver Greer Cofield races around Dixie Speedway (Courtesy of Mitchell Jenkins)

Although nervous, she is grateful for the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of her father, Greg Cofield, a former racer who started visiting Dixie with his father when he was five years old.

“[His racing number] was number five as well,” said the teenage driver. “That’s where I got my number from.”

Having raced for many years on the dirt track his daughter prepares to take on, Greg looks on with excitement for his daughter to follow in the family trade.

“It’s the Redneck Riveria, baby!” laughed Gary Cofield, Greer’s uncle and Greg’s brother. “For her to fall into it like that, I’m all in … it’s in our blood.”

Racer Greer Cofield stands outside of her car at The Dixie Speedway on April 6, 2024. (Julien Virgin/WABE)

Greg notes that while the sport is exciting, success on the track does not come without passion and commitment.

“It costs a lot of money … you got to be dedicated,” he added. “My theory is you either pay to get them out of trouble or you pay to keep them out of trouble. So this is my way of paying to keep her out of trouble.”

With the motors slowly drowning down and the night coming to an end, the fans leave knowing that the rest of the racing season at Dixie is just beginning.

“The richer folks want to do away with it,” said driver Andrew Findley. “But if that traffic on 92 don’t tell him nothing tonight, Dixie is Woodstock.”

“It just makes me so proud that I’m doing something that the fans can enjoy,” said Mickey Swims. “And that’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.”