Atomic name revived for new east Tennessee oval
By Michael MoatsDirtonDirt.com correspondent
Six years after the original Atomic Speedway in Lenoir City, Tenn., was shuttered and leveled to make way for a trucking terminal, work to build new dirt oval by the same name is set to begin on a property next door to the site of the original track.
Knoxville-area businessman Doug Sopha has announced plans to soon begin construction of a new quarter-mile dirt track in Lenoir City with plans to host begin hosting races next March.
Sopha, a former owner of both 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn., and Crossville (Tenn.) Raceway, has purchased I-40 Motocross and adjoining property for construction of the new dirt oval alongside the motocross track. In all, Sopha will have close to 30 acres on the site of the new racing facility with parts of the land boarding the old Atomic Speedway property.
Chris Corum, who promoted 411 and Crossville when Sopha owned the tracks, has returned to Tennessee to promoter the new track as well as manage the motocross track. Corum took the job as promoter of Macon (IL) Speedway this summer, but has returned to his home state for a new challenge.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Corum said. “I really enjoyed my time at Macon, but this is home. Doug and I talked regularly after I left and he told me about his plans. The old Atomic had a special place in my heart. My dad raced there a lot, so that name and that location means a lot to me and my family. To get the opportunity to build a new Atomic Speedway from the ground up, and come back home, was something I couldn’t pass up.”
Built in the 1970s by Bob Martin, the original Atomic Speedway was a high-banked, third-mile oval that closed in 2006 after being acquired by Lincoln, Neb.-based trucking company Crete Carrier.
While it will share names with the old track, the new Atomic Speedway will not be a replica of its predecessor in design. The banking will be semi-banked and relatively flat compared to the former Atomic, which like many east Tennessee ovals was known for its steep banking. However, a front stretch dogleg much like the one of the old Atomic will be incorporated into the layout of the new track’s surface.
“We have talked about the design and the layout of the track,” Corum said. “Having a flatter track isn’t as hard on equipment. You can still get good two and three-wide racing on a flatter track, especially when it’s a smaller track. None of the other tracks in this area are flat, so we’ll be able to provide a different type of racing.”
Plans are to race on Friday nights highlighted by a combined Limited Late Model and Crate Late Model division. Corum hopes to benefit in a region that’s void of a Friday night track, save for Boyd’s Speedway nearly 100 miles away in Ringgold, Ga.
“We’re going to run on Friday nights,” Corum explained. “There are a number of tracks in the area that do well on Saturday nights. We don’t want to water it down by taking away from those tracks. There aren’t many cars from this area that go to Boyd’s (Speedway) on a regular basis. If we can get a few of those and some that race at Crossville, Wartburg, and even 411 to come race with us on Fridays, we feel that will only make the racing in the area that much stronger.”
Once completed, the new Atomic Speedway will have the former VIP tower from the old track that former I-40 Motocross owner Jim Varnell bought when it was being demolished. Plans are to remodel it once it is moved into place.