Thunder Mountain gets new name
After sitting idle for most of 2007, Thunder Mountain Speedway will come back to life this spring with a new operator, a new name and a shorter track.
Marvin Ford, a long-time racer from Rome, Ga., has signed a three-year lease agreement and is renaming the dirt track Fort Payne Motor Speedway. Under the agreement, Ford will have the option to purchase the speedway at any time during the lease period, and the lease can be renewed for another three years.
The speedway is in Fyffe but has a Fort Payne address.
"When I found it had a Fort Payne address, then it was a no-brainer for me to change the name," Ford said.
The address isn't the only reason for the change. Ford hopes the new name will encourage track visitors to frequent hotels and other businesses in Fort Payne and DeKalb County.
The change will alert visitors of the track's proximity to the city, he said.
Ford said having a relationship with the local community is a critical part of his plans.
"It's very important," he said. "The community is what is going to make us successful or not. I want to do programs with the high schools. We want to be involved with the fire department and with the police efforts. We want to get kids involved. And, we want to bring revenue in the community."
Ford raced weekly for 25 years before leasing and operating Gadsden Speedway in Hokes Bluff in 1988. He leased and operated Green Valley Speedway in Glencoe from 1989-1996. Since then, he has raced two or three special events per year while also working at various tracks.
The track is being shortened from about fourth-tenths of a mile to about three-eighths. The smaller track should make it easier for fans to watch and help drivers reduce wear and tear on their equipment. Ford said the change will also make for closer and better racing.
Barksdale said he was happy the owners found someone with the knowledge and finances to run the track, and he had no problem with the name change.
Barksdale said he wouldn't be surprised if Ford eventually buy's the facility.
"I believe if it does well and everything, that they will," he said. "They know what they're doing. Everything looks promising. I think everything they've done so far is going to be good for it."