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Georgia Track Rich In History

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 16 2009
Dick Trickle was one of those who have won at Gresham in the past. (Photo courtesy of Gresham Speedway)

Dick Trickle was one of those who have won the World Crown 300 in the past. (Photo courtesy of Gresham Speedway)

Jefferson, Ga. – Fresh off a multi-million dollar renovation, Gresham Motorsports Park, the half-mile paved oval formerly known as Peach State Speedway, opened its gates on Sunday to host one of the nation’s premier Late Model events, the World Crown 300.

Originally known as Jeffco Speedway, the facility welcomed what is today known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in the late 1960s.

Cale Yarborough became the first NASCAR winner at the north Georgia track by capturing a 200 mile event there in 1968.

Bobby Isaac went to victory lane the following season in what would turn out to be the Cup Series’ final visit to the speedway located about 50 miles northeast of Atlanta.

NASCAR returned to the high-speed oval just under two decades later when Darrell Waltrip sat on the pole and won a 200 lap Busch Series race in 1986.

The next season saw NASCAR’s junior circuit make two appearances at what was then known as Peach State Speedway. Larry Pearson captured both events.

Despite experiencing several ownership and management changes over the past two decades, the aging facility continued to produce some of the best short track racing in the country. Weekly Late Model shows, ASA, the Hooters Pro Cup Series, NASCAR’s old All Pro Series and other forms of racing entertained fans for years.

One year ago, Paul Kelley became the final person to conquer the cracking asphalt surface by edging the late Matt Hawkins to win the 25th running of the prestigious World Crown 300, an event won in years past by drivers such as Waltrip, Dick Trickle, Gary Balough, Mike Eddy, Rich Bickle, Billy Bigley Jr., Rick Crawford, Mike Cope, Freddie Query, Bobby Gill and Ronnie Sanders.

On Sunday, Kelley became the first four-time winner of the event despite being the third driver to cross the finish line.

Original winner Jeff Choquette and runnerup Max Gresham wound up being disqualified late Sunday night after their cars failed post-race inspection.

The old layout was all about tire management on an aging surface. The new track was more about pure speed.

“It’s fast,” said Kelley, who also won the World Crown in 2001, 2007 and 2008. “There’s no comparison. It doesn’t fall off. You’ve got to be on your game.

“We worked on this thing all night (on Saturday) after qualifying because we qualified like junk. We started 18th. To get up to third, that’s awesome stuff.”

Unofficial order of finish

1.           Paul Kelley

2.           Colt James

3.           Beau Slocumb

4.           Taylor Satterfield

5.           Tanner Berryhill

6.           Michael Lance

7.           Scott Sutherland

8.           Stephen Nasse

9.           Tyler Millwood

10.         Dylan Presnell

11.         Jason Hogan

12.         Michael Phelps

13.         Chase Elliott

14.         David Hole

15.         Chuck Barnes

16.         Tim George, Jr.

17.         Fredrick Moore

18.         Austin Hill

19.         Cassius Clark

20.         TJ Reaid

21.         Augie Grill

22.         Brandon Johnson

23.         Greg Simpson

24.         Bubba Pollard

25.         Shane Hall

26.         Johnny Brazier

27.         Jerick Johnson

28.         Lee Langford

29.         Jimmy Garmon

30.         Ryan Sieg

31.         Will Thomas

32.         Russell Fleeman

33.         Johnny Henderson

34.         Dakota Stroup

35.         Tommy Joe Martins

36.         Chris Davidson

DQ.         Jeff Choquette

DQ.         Max Gresham

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, November 16 2009