Joe Medley: Southern Series steps up at TST
May 30, 2009 | 1212 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TALLADEGA — If not for the wreck Byron Michael cannot remember, he would have enjoyed the Southern Regional Racing Series' first run at the Talladega Short Track from behind the wheel.

Instead, the two-time series champion and Florence native contributed in tech inspections, and he thought about it from new perspectives … as one of the series' part-owners and a survivor.

"You don't realize what you do sacrifice until you kind of step aside and do the other things in life," he said.

Michael stayed a step aside Saturday while his series stepped forward in the featured super late model race. The SRRS has grown from six races to 26 in four years of racing — primarily in Alabama and Tennessee — but the chance to roar and slide on TST's 3/8-mile dirt track revved everybody up.

"It's big for us, and I hope it's big for the race track, too," president Mike Luna said.

Gary Dearing, announcer for the SRRS's Webcasts, called TST "the track of the South."

"When I saw we had Talladega on the schedule, I was very excited," he said. "... When you talk racing, you generally talk about Talladega Short Track.

"When the big guys (NASCAR drivers) are down here — Tony Stewart and all those guys — they come to the track. They love to come here. They've probably got this more on their minds than they do racing up the street."

While TST brings NASCAR drivers back to their roots, the SRRS marks a grassroots movement. A handful of drivers started it and own it.

Everyone runs the same tires and specs. Rules are enforced. It's about driving skill.

That's why roughly 250 drivers raced in at least one SRRS race last year. The series has 14-15 drivers who go to every track, while some series have only a handful.

"They know when they come race with us, they get treated fair," Michael said. "Everybody's on a level playing field.

"... We wanted a series where your average racer can go race for a decent purse without having to travel so much and it cost a fortune to do it and be competitive."

But for his accident in November, Michael would have raced for Saturday's $3,000 prize, won by Alexandria native and TST regular Dingus Griffin.

Michael ramped off a dirt mound and into the wall at Green Valley Speedway in Glencoe, and the crash dealt him what he called a "severe concussion."

Michael said he has about a two-week memory gap, and the holidays remain a haze.

"It took me all winter and then some to get to halfway see the world straight again," he said.

Luna and others remain after Michael to stay involved with their growing series. As for a return to the driver's seat, Michael can't see it.

The wreck, recuperation and a taste of the life he was missing sapped his desire.

"It just changes your outlook on things," he said. "A month from now it may change. You never know."

As for the SRRS, it's racing forward.
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