Local stock car racers have been gearing up for this weekend’s season opener at Senoia Raceway ever since the 2017 season ended in early December. Drivers from all over the area have been busy updating equipment, rebuilding engines and designing new graphics for their rolling billboards. All of it has been in anticipation of the new year which begins this Saturday at the 3/8ths mile speedway just west of Senoia, GA on Highway 16. “It’s always one of the most exciting races each year,” said track promoter Mayes Massey. “Everyone is back at zero with a chance to have a championship season. It’s the chance to show improvement in your performance from last year. Everyone is back on the same level for opening night.” Massey, along his dad and business partner Doug Stevens begin their fourth year at the helm of the track that was built by Hence Pollard in the late sixties. The trio has brought the track back to life with a number of improvements to the track, facility and scheduling of events. “We are excited again going into the season,” added Massey. “We have so many of our drivers coming back this year and some new ones that will be added to the mix of regulars. Plus, we have added a class that will help the youngsters and the less experienced driver enjoy their new hobby more. It should create a more competitive atmosphere for the drivers and a better show for the fans.” Senoia’s Clint ‘Cat Daddy’ Smith will return to defend his three straight titles in the Super Late Model division. The second generation driver will see an increase in his competition as several young guns appear to have stepped up their racing programs for the 2018 campaign. Douglasville’s ‘Racin’ Mason Massey has jumped into a Capital Race Car and is working closely with former Craftsman Tool World of Outlaws champion Shane Clanton this season. Senoia’s teenage sensation Ashton Winger will begin his second full season behind the wheel of his familiar #12 super late model. Winger turned it up a notch at the tail end of the season picking up several wins at not only Senoia Raceway but other tracks around the southeastern region. Winger has his dad, Gary Winger, who is considered one of the most knowledgeable crew chiefs in the nation with him all the way. Another teenager that showed his promise last year is Cartersville’s Zach Leonhardi. The young gun qualified second against some of the nation’s best drivers at a special event last year and showed growing promise throughout the season. Lithia Springs hot shoe Landon Bagby is expected to compete more this season at Senoia Raceway as is veterans Ricky Williams of Fayetteville, Tod Darda of LaGrange, Laddie and Shane Fulcher of Thomaston and Senoia’s Bubba Pollard. This Saturday, Massey is excited to see several drivers planning to run the opener as they get ready for the first special event at the end of March. Drivers like Shane Clanton, Dawsonville’s Donald McIntosh and Southern All-Stars champion Austin Horton are expected to join the field in preparation of the Spring Nationals presented by Textron Off Road on March 30 and 31. That race will offer a $10,000 to win finale on the final night of March. ‘Magic’ Matt Dooley of Brooks picked up his first career title in the Limited Late Models last season. The 21-year-old champion is expected to return to defend his crown again this season, but is sure to find some new found competition from two-time champion Glenn Morris who is returning to a full-time ride in the division for 2018. He will also find pressure to defend from third generation driver Bailey Williams and former track champion Thomas Mewborn. The track has also opened up competition to allow drivers to run multiple cars each night. That is anticipated to increase the competition level in the Limited Lates this year. McDonough’s Jamie Maurice will return to defend his title in the Crate Late Model division this season. Maurice will lead the charge in one of the track’s most competitive classes. Seeveral returning veterans and a few new drivers along with a few others that have moved up into the division will give Maurice a serious challenge to repeat at the season champion. Griffin’s Keith Fields, Newnan’s Dorough Bright, Hampton’s Mark Newton and LaGrange’s Nathan Farrow are all expected to defend their titles from a year ago in theLate Model Sportsman, Bombers, Mini Stock and Hot Shots respectively. Only Villa Rica’s ‘Smokiin’ Joe Hillman is undecided on another run at the season title in his championship division the Hobby Stocks. “We are really excited that so many of our drivers will be back this season,” said Massey. “We work really hard to give all of our drivers the best facility and the most fair competition.” The new season will also feature a new class for drivers with less experience behind the wheel. The Griffn Hose & Hydraulic Late Model Sportsman division will provide an opportunity for drivers to sharpen their driving skills before moving into the highly competitive Late Model Sportsman division. “Our Late Model Sportsman division is really competitive,” said Massey. “It can be overwhelming to a new driver and that sometimes takes away from the enjoyment. It definitely takes away from their chance to learn. It is so competitive, the new drivers sometimes are just trying to stay out of the way of the faster, more experienced drivers and then they are not learning how to race. This should help those less experienced drivers get better behind the wheel and have a lot more fun.” The fun begins this Saturday, March 3rd with the season opener at Senoia Raceway. The track is located just five miles west of Senoia, GA, on Georgia Highway 16. Easy access from both Interstate 75 and 85. The pit gates open at 2pm and the grandstand gates open at 5pm. Practice rounds and qualifying is set to start at 6pm with racing to follow around 7:30pm. Tickets are $12; kids 5-11 are $5; four & under are free. The track also offers trackside parking and spectator viewing. Pit passes can be purchased for $30; kids 5-11 are $20 while four & under are free. For additional information, visit the track website at www.senoiaraceway.com or call the speedway at 770.599.6161.