Chickamauga man delivers winning bid to buy Cleveland speedway
North Georgia's Al Chapman tendering an $807,100 bid late Thursday afternoon to buy the track and adjoining 25 acres of property, lock, stock and barrel.
"I just hope and pray they keep it open that we can come back and enjoy this track," opines Jackie Taylor, a racing fan from neighboring Polk County.
When asked if he plans to keep the track a racing facility, Chapman gave a non-commital answer. " I don't know, gonna talk to some people and see," said Chapman after his winning bid was approved.
"They have the option of doing whatever they choose with it, its purely a speculative real estate investment," said auctioneer Flipper McDaniel.
"Just not knowing is the worst part, if he would just tell us one way or another that would just take a load off," said Chattanooga's Shannon Sharpe, who says she grew up at the track her father often frequented.
Rhonda Cross and her son Brad share Shannon's sentiment about the track and it's nebulous future.
"Whoever the person is who bought it will have the utmost support from the entire community and the southeast region here," said Brad Cross about the prospective new owner if racing stays.
Brad has run the one third of a mile dirt oval as his mom used to, but when Rhonda ran, she remembers the walls were only made of wood.
"If you wrecked and you went through the walls, you come out of the creek and come back out on Lee Highway and you came back out on the track," said Rhonda jokingly.
"It takes quite a crew to keep this place going as a race track , I mean you got a lot of work , its 24-7. Daddy lived at this place, I mean that was it, this was his life!"
David Johnson is the eldest son of the speedway's late owner Joe Lee Johnson. David hopes his father's old track stays as a racing venue, and is restored to its previous glory.
Johnson says safety, and addressing the decrepit grand stands would be the first order of business, if racing remains part of the property's future.
"Realistically, you'd probably have to spend 100 to 120 thousand dollars in real money," said Johnson of the decades old track.
Chapman has thirty days to close on the sale of the historic track, which dates back to the early 1950's.