A little bird told me that Hueytown might be in position to build a new race track. This wasn’t some tweeting jaybird either, it was a wise owl professing what should be.
And it should be. But it shouldn’t stop there. A racing museum perhaps, some new hotels, more restaurants. Hueytown could be a real tourist destination, and Bessemer would also benefit.
The bird that sang to me wanted to stay anonymous because these plans are not officially endorsed yet. Also, probably because there could be a cluster of buzzards out there trying to gooble up the idea for other areas.
Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, who may soon be a jailbird, has pledged city funding to move the Birmingham International Raceway from Fair Park to a location off of Daniel Payne Dr. in northwest Birmingham.
Renovations to the BIR are much-needed but apparently are not in Langford’s plan for other renovations at Fair Park.
Instead of moving the track to another location in Birmingham, wouldn’t it be better to place the new-born racing venue in the cradle of Hueytown’s racing history?
The world famous “Alabama Gang” put Hueytown on the map, but the city has never really capitalized on the potential promotional benefits.
For those who may have forgotten, or never knew, the Alabama Gang began in the late 1950s and early 1960s when Bobby Allison convinced his brother Donnie and friend Red Farmer to set up a racing shop in Hueytown, partly because of the racing opportunities at the nearby BIR. Over the years the Allisons created racing afiliations with Neil and David Bonnett of Bessemer, Jimmy “Smut” Means of Huntsville and others like Steve Grissom, Mike Alexander and Hut Strickland.
The city of Hueytown has honored some of these speedsters by naming roads after them. But wouldn’t it be great if Allison-Bonnet Parkway led to a race track instead of only passing a few grocery stores and fast food joints?
Think of the potential tourists that would come and visit a race track and a museum dedicated to the South’s number one sport. You don’t believe auto racing is the number one sport? Consider this. Last weekend more than 90,000 people packed into Bryant-Denny stadium in Tuscaloosa to watch the annual Iron Bowl football contest. College football is a huge draw. But the Talladega Super Speedway can seat 143,000 people for the racing events it hosts each year, plus thousands more in the 213-acre infield of its race track.
I bet if you counted cars on the way to Tuscaloosa last weekend, not only would you have seen Alabama and Auburn flags and bumper stickers, you would have also seen many vehicles adorned with the numbers of their favorite drivers. Or maybe those little cartoon guys “whizzing” on the number of their most-hated driver.
Race fans are every bit as passionate, if not more so, about their favorite drivers than football fans are about their team. Did you know that marketing studies show NASCAR fans are the most loyal group of consumers around? In other words, if their driver endorses Bud, a Miller will never pass their lips. If he endorses Tide, they will wear dirty clothes before washing with Cheer. Hueytown needs to invite these folks to spend some time and money with them.
Talladega hosts five racing events each year. Tuscaloosa hosts six football games each season. Bessemer and Hueytown are located in a perfect position to grab race fans and football fans (often one-in-the-same) either for a post-event trip or a pre-event trip in Talladega or Tuscaloosa. Plus Hueytown can host its own events throughout the year.
It is an idea whose time has come. Local officials should not sit on idle. They should put the pedal to the metal and make it happen. The early bird gets the worm.