Racing has always been a big part of Mike Mauldin’s life.
“I love it dearly,” said Mauldin, who is from Fulton. “The Bullring is one of the places where I got my start. To be able to contribute to the success of the Columbus Speedway means a lot to me. We are looking forward to a great year of racing.”
In December, Mauldin and Jeff Greer reached an agreement with the Nickoles family to operate the speedway for the 2012 season. The duo will replace Johnny Stokes, who had been the speedway’s promoter for the past seven seasons.
The plans are to make the famed speedway even more popular.
“We want to bring big-time racing back to Columbus,” Mauldin said. “That is our main objective. We have a couple of Mississippi State Championship Series races coming back to Columbus. This is too good of a racing area not to have some of the premier events. Our goal is to bring some of those events back to Columbus.”
Mauldin had worked with Stokes as the speedway’s race director for the past seven seasons. Greer is the promoter of the North Alabama Speedway in Tuscumbia, Ala. By coming together, the duo can share a wealth of racing knowledge and contacts throughout the Southeast.
“There are a lot of racers in the Columbus area, and we are trying to do something really great for them,” Greer said. “We just have to get this thing started and see how we do before we can build it up too big.
“I am excited, though, and looking forward to being a part of it.”
The highlights of this year’s schedule include two Mississippi State Championship Series late-model races. The James King Memorial will be March 17 (practice runs March 16), while the James Nickoles Memorial will be Aug. 4.
Speedway organizers are preparing for about 20 races this season, which runs from March through November.
“We wanted to bring weekly racing back to Columbus,” said Greer, who has been with the North Alabama speedway for six years. “The Nickoles family are real good people to work with. They are really committed to making this go and go at a high level. Our goal now is to bring the enthusiasm back for the area racers.”
The racing schedule had been reduced the past three seasons. Greer and Mauldin said they feel fortunate to have assembled such a quality schedule on short notice.
“The last three years the raceway had been quite limited,” Mauldin said. “We are out to change that. Racing is such a big part of this area. People grew up with the Bullring, and it was part of their lives. Our challenge is to bring that excitement back. It will take some work, but as long as everybody is committed, we can make this thing special.”
The changes to make the venue more suitable for big-time racing are already under way. Bleacher seating is being renovated, the track is being re-done and other amenities are being added to make the facility more fan friendly.
“Credit to the Nickoles family for wanting a top-notch facility,” Mauldin said. “I think the regulars will be pleasantly surprised when they come to the first race. We want to listen to our fans.”
The Magnolia Motor Speedway also is gearing up for a busy schedule. Veteran promoter Stokes will continue to promote events at that speedway.
Stokes, who stepped down from the Columbus Speedway in December, had promoted events at the track for more than 10 years.
“I’ve had a great time running that track,” Stokes said. “The Nickoles family has been great to work with. I know the track is in good hands. I am looking forward to a less hectic schedule.”
Around 15 events are scheduled for the Magnolia Motor Speedway, including the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series on July 5-7 and the Southern Belle Cotton Pickin’ 100 on Oct. 25-27.
The 2012 race schedule can be found at www.columbusspeedway.net.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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