It’s a race track with view in Corbin, Kentucky
Something amazing is happening in Corbin, Kentucky. You drive up an over-grown weather torn road, to the peak of a mountain and bam! Out of nowhere, 1,300 feet above sea level, there sits Thunder Mountain Speedway, a brand new race track. A dirt track that will soon be on your bucket list.
View Thunder Mountain Speedway photos and videos below.
On the peak of a mountain, the track sits buried in a natural bowl. Currently the racing surface is under construction, on the property of a retired coal mine. The track was partially there already due to the natural shape of the hole at the peak, they’re just shaping it.
Call it a 1/3 mile clay oval track, with a view. The corners will feature 6-10 degree’s of banking with nearly flat straights.
And as they said, “If it ain’t right, we’ll change it.” That pretty much sums of the characters involved in the operation. It’s a family of racers and they’re checking off all the boxes. It has every sign of creating lasting memories for the local race fan and avid dirt track travelers across the country.
Dennis Barton and his wife Lori Crawford Barton are the owners of the new dirt track. Their son-in-law, Jared Dickey is handling promotion, rules and the overall managing aspect of the complex.
On my way home from a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race, I stopped by. Honestly, I didn’t expect it to be so amazing. I’ve been to 35 tracks in 2017 alone, this one is by far the coolest one I’ve seen, visually.
A lap hasn’t been turned and the surface isn’t 1/2 way complete so I can’t comment on the racing surface just yet. But, the atmosphere, the scenery, it isn’t what you’d expect to see, at any race track.
“I’ll tell you what, this is the prettiest view you’ll ever see up here,” Lori Crawford Barton states in the background of the interview tape with RacingNews.co. She’s right. Especially, if you’re a race fan, of any kind.
How did this come about?
It’s a rare thing to see a new dirt track, Yet, this one dispenses the impression of a scene from the Auroras. If the Auroras wasn’t covered in snow and instead had a dirt track, this is that dirt track.
We weren’t lookin’ for no property, didn’t need no property.
-Lori Crawford Barton
“The way the making of this race track began was he [Dennis] came home one evenin’, he said, ‘I want you to ride up and look at a piece of property with me.’ We weren’t lookin’ for no property, didn’t need no property. But, I humored him and we drove up here,” Lori Crawford Barton tells the story.
It would make a nice race track wouldn’t it?
“It was all wooded, except for this hole. He pulled his truck up here and said, ‘It would make a nice race track wouldn’t it?’ ”
Next thing I knew, we was inside signin’ paperwork to buy property we didn’t need.
-Lori Crawford Barton
“And we went from there. Next thing I knew, we was inside signin’ paperwork to buy property we didn’t need.” The project began in September 2016. “As soon as he bought it, he brought the dozers up,” Lori concludes the protocol of how you become a dirt track owner.
This little town is a story in itself. In the middle of nowhere, sits this town of racers. I was driving down the two lane highways, if you peeked into the garages, race cars everywhere. The national scene is represented in the area as well. Nearby racers include; Jimmy Owens, Mike Marlar, Jackie Boggs and more.
Is this a hobby?
“This is a hobby for me,” track owner Dennis Barton builds and sells residential storage buildings.
You don’t want it to lose money. But, it’s not going to break you if it does? “Exactly,” Barton confirms the playbook.
At this point in the conversation, I asked how much he invested in the track so far. There was a lot of laughter, all-around. But, I received no answer. “My wife’s here. It’s like this, we don’t talk about the race car and we don’t talk how much money’s in the race track,” Barton explains with a laugh.
How did you get into racing?
“Actually, I was 35 years old and I built my boys a race car. They never would fool with it, wouldn’t even get in it. I said, ‘Well, I’ll take it’ and I wish I never took it,” Barton says with another laugh.
“Mid 90’s, I started racing in ’95 and I think Dennis started racing in ’97,” Dickey states. “Yeah, me and me son-in-law raced together, before he was my son-in-law,” Barton says. “We’ve known each other a long time, even before we’ve become family,” states the son-in-law, Jared Dickey.
The new dirt track
It’s new. Especially for the area, it’s off the beaten path. Beyond that, it’s going to be ‘almost’ D shaped. Turns 1-2 will be a long sweeper, a short back straight-away and a tight turns 3-4. If you make me compare it to anything, I’d say Bubba Raceway Park shares the most similarities as far as it’s shape.
You started with a blank sheet. Did you mirror it off any track? “No. I’m just taking my information from racing at race tracks. What I like, to keep it competitive,” Dennis Barton explains where the layout comes from.
“If you put banking in a race track, which don’t get me wrong banking in race tracks is fun to watch, sometimes and it sometimes ain’t. But, they get away from each other and it’s too far away to catch somebody. It turns into a motor track. I’m just trying to take that out around here, a little bit,” the track owner concludes his reasoning.
Honestly, I didn’t know where I was when I went to meet these guys. I just plugged in the address and hit the road, never so much as glanced at the map. But, when they started naming the surrounding tracks, I figured out my location.
Everything in this area is high banked. I mean, actual high banking. Some tracks, in certain regions will put the high banking label on it, but that’s not what it is at all. In this area, 20 degree’s would probably be considered semi-banked. Around Corbin, KY, tracks are steep.
So you’re going the opposite direction of your neighbors? “Pretty much, yup. And a little wide too, where you can pass on it,” stated track owner Dennis Barton.
Richmond Raceway is right up the road and it’s for sale at $250,000. My point is there’s actually multiple tracks in the area that probably could have been purchased.
Related: Richmond Raceway – For Sale
Did the closing of that track have anything to do with the decision to open this one? “No, we supported Richmond a lot. My father-in-law, the owner of Thunder Mountain Speedway he raced the super late model, open-wheel modified’s and street stocks at Richmond. We’ve run Richmond, Burnside, Tazewell and everybody around us,” Jared Dickey stated of the neighboring facilities.
Did you ever consider buying a closed track as an option? Or was it always, start from scratch? “Yeah, start from scratch. There’s always been different promoters take a track over. You know, it don’t seem like it ever works out for them too good,” Dennis Barton explains his need to start with fresh ideas.
Other area track owners reaching out? Tracks working together? “Brandon from Burnside, he’s actually willing to work with us and maybe do some kind of bonus races, if you run both tracks,” Jared Dickey spoke on the importance of tracks working together to promote the growth of competition at both.
Have you spoken with any touring series about hosting a race in 2018? “We’ve had a couple inquire,” says Jared Dickey. “They reached out to us but until we get up and running, we’re not going to dedicate to nobody on a touring series, yet.”
How often do you plan to run? “I think right now, about 3 weeks a month. 2-3 weeks a month,” says Jared Dickey. “We was hoping to get a race in this year, but it’s not gunna happen. We’re shootin’ for April  now. That’s the goal.”
Scales will be part of the show at Thunder Mountain Speedway. Jared Dickey explains, “We’re wanting to put a digital board above the scales that’ll show total weight of the car. Everybody in the grandstands pits, will see it.”
That’s going to make the crowd erupt. “That way, when you roll across our scales, if you’re 1 lb light, everybody knows you’re 1 lb light. There ain’t no ‘good buddy syndrome’ going on around here, states Jared Dickey.
Generator? “Considering we’re on top of this mountain. There ain’t no power up here. The fee to get it up here was way more than what we could run it off the generators.” Plans to upgrade in the future? “Yeah, we probably will eventually, but we’re gunna start off runnin’ on the generator,” Jared Dickey explains.
The entrance road will be fixed? “The road comin’ up the hill was originally a county road but they told us that 7 years ago they took it off the county. So, we’ll pave the road or whatever we gotta do to get them haulers up here,” Jared Dickey explains.
One of the biggest complaints that myself and others have about local racing is the number of classes. They are going to include a wide range of classes, that had me worried. On a regular basis, they’ll have Super Late Models, KDRA Street Stocks, 4 Cylinders, Open Wheel Modifieds, Mini-Cup and Crates on a limited schedule.
Now, I can hear you yelling, ‘That’s too many classes!’ Well, that’s what I said too. But, they cleared that up for me. They’ve got the mind of the race fan and have it figured out. They plan to rotate the classes. Meaning, they will only run 4 of those classes in a single night, the prefect number. The exception being a special show.
And, they have a weekly super late model class. As the class continues to disappear, on the local level, they can make it work. How? Because, this is a huge racing town, in the middle of the Appalachian mountains.
We’ve got 11 super late models within a 15 mile radius of us.
“If we put up a big show for crates then supers will be in the show that night as well,” stated Jared Dickey. “We’ve had a lot of support from the local racers. We’ve got 11 super late models within a 15 mile radius of us. That’s the reason for running Supers on a regular show. 90% of the local cars are driving about 40 miles to race,” Jared Dickey.
Thunder Mountain Speedway
Lori Crawford Barton is the wife of track owner Dennis Barker. She came up with the name for the track. Did you have other other ideas you crossed off for a name? “No. I just thought of being up here in the Kentucky mountains and the thunder rollin’. Cause, I figure, that’s what it’s going to sound like when we get up here with 25 late models out there roaring,” she concludes.
The track is expected to host it’s first night of racing in April 2018. I’ll be there!
Other Interesting Information
VIP Booths: The track will have 12 VIP booths, built by the owner himself. Those will be offered as a season package. If there’s a few that aren’t sold, those will be offered for a nightly package.
Hillside drive-in style parking: There’s a hill on the back straight-away, it’s going to be drive-in style viewing of the racing. Huh? I hear you asking that as I type this.
Yup, there’s a big hill over looking the entire track. They plan to build a gate back there and charge admission. You’ll be able to drive your car to a parking spot and view the entire night of racing, without leaving your car.
How many are working on the track: Right now, they’ve got three to four crew guys working on the track. Sometimes it’s a five day work week, other times is a six day work week. It’s friends, but their on the payroll. 8 hours, 10 hours, sometimes 12 hours. It just depends on what they have going on that day.
One of crew is doubles as the local fire chief, he’s guiding them on the safety issues as things come up in that department. They are all on the payroll and most of them will stick around when the tracks complete.
Drainage: This track is in a huge bowl. So, when it rains, the bowl is going to fill up. But, they’ve already prepped for that. A huge drainage pipe has already been installed. A pipe runs from the infield, under the track in turns 1-2 and dumps out on the falling end of the mountain.
The day I went there, it rained, a lot. The drain was installed, it just wasn’t flush with the ground yet. So, a puddle formed at the basin. That’s going to be fixed when the pipe is fully installed.