Mike Swims In NDLMHOF: ‘Bout Time

From 2007: At the recent 25th Annual North South 100 at Florence Speedway in Kentucky the Class of 2007 of the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame was inducted that included drivers Verlin Eakers, Gene Petro, David Spear, H.E. Vineyard, Herb Scott, and Ralph Earnhardt. The annual Sportsman Award went to driver Mike Jewell while in the Major Contribution to the Sport award went to the father-son duo of Mike and Mickey Swims of Dixie and Rome speedways and Hav-A-Tampa fame.As for the Swims all I can say is it was a long time in coming.

Mickey Swims owned a drag strip in Cumming and bought Rome Speedway in the late ‘60s. When he built the concrete stands at Rome, he and young son Mike put their handprints in the concrete in the first row and they’re still visible today. The Swims weren’t done though. Mickey partnered with driver Bud Lunsford to buy Dixie in the summer of 1976 and made it a dirt track in 1977. In 1978, Swims bought West Atlanta Speedway.

Mike Swims has been a promoter since age 16, starting with a $5000 to win demo derby. One motorcycle show is remembered for promoting Dalton racer Tammy Kirk as the “Skirt in the Dirt.”

The United Dirt Track Racing Association (UDTRA) Pro DirtCar series, known by the sponsor’s name, Hav-A-Tampa came next and was the most successful dirt Late Model touring series in the nation in the ‘90s. It was started at Dixie with Mike Swims and announcer Jimmy Mosteller as leaders. It led the dirt racing world into common rules for bodies and competition, and let the local drivers test their skills and cars against the touring teams.

After Hav-A-Tampa Cigars bowed out of racing the series became known as UDTRA (United Dirt Track Racing Association). Mike ran until selling the series. The touring dirt Late Model series then became the Xtreme DirtCar Series, which held its final race in 2004 before being sold off to DIRT Motorsports.

I have only met Mickey, the patriarch of the Swims family, a couple of times over the decades but Mike Swims is someone I have also known for a number of years and got to know fairly well since the formation of the Hav-A-Tampa series. I have watched Mike over the years as a track promoter and series owner and have seen first hand his contributions to the sport.

Back in the 80’s I was for a time the Executive Director and Vice President of the old STARS sanction and during that time myself, and others, hoped for major mainstream sponsorship (we succeeded with Hardees) and, of course, national television coverage and a tour that criss-crossed a vast majority of the country. While the STARS team did an admirable job it took Mike Swims’ vision, tenacity and resolve, along with a huge chunk of money to make all of that happen.

Last weekend my son Jarrod and watched the World of Outlaw Late Model Series on a major television network. That would not have happened if not for Mike Swims. While there were very, very infrequent blips on the radar of national television prior to Swims it was few and far in between. But once Swims got his Hav-A-Tampa
juggernaut steamrolling he made and took a financial gamble to put his series on national television in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Swims laid the groundwork and made it feasible and legitimate for dirt Late Models to appear on national television. We have it now thanks to Mike Swims. He was the one who first really knocked down the obstacles, worked out the logistics and broke out the checkbook.

Swims also set the standard for a big-time ‘national’ dirt Late Model touring series, a formula that is still being used today. He brought on professionals to staff his series and turned them loose while providing a vision. It worked. That Mike Swims is no longer leading a sanctioning body at the top of the helm is a negative for the sport although he is active busy and an integral part of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series serving as a consultant.

But for the fans and teams at Dixie and Rome speedways it is a positive for them to have Swims’ undivided attention, proven by the fact that Dixie Speedway was voted as the “Atlanta Journal Constitution Small Business of the Year” for 2004 by the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce. The man just oozes ‘promoter’s DNA’.

And what else makes Mike Swims so special in this sport?

He is a man of character and class. He is also, as stated previously, a man of vision. There is no way on God’s green earth that anyone could accuse Mike Swims of not seeing the forest for the trees. He has an accurate reading on the pulse of the sport, always did, and can predict what is coming next with almost flawless accuracy.

Mike Swims’ word is gold and that quality alone puts him at the forefront of this industry. And through his dedication to the sport of dirt Late Model racing that segment of dirt racing is now nearly at, or right at, the forefront of all of dirt racing and growing daily.

You can give Mike Swims a big ‘ol chunk of credit for that.

But don’t take my word for it.

“Mike and Mickey’s dedication to the sport of dirt track racing paid payoff with their induction into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame,” said Ritchie Lewis, the series director for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, a position he previously held with Hav-A-Tampa/UDTRA. “Everyone with the series truly sends out our heartfelt congratulations to both Mike and Mickey.”

“Having known the Swims family for a number of years, I know they are respectfully thankful to good Lord above and to all the fans, promoters and drivers who make this the most exciting form of racing out there and I know they will not rest on their laurels as they want to continue to put on some of the best shows in all of dirt track racing at Rome and Dixie Speedways.”

“I want to congratulate Mike and his father for their induction into the National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame,” stated Bob Patison, Vice President of Lucas Oil. “Mike has been a valuable asset to the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and I have a great deal of respect for him and his passion for dirt Late Model racing.”

The sport of dirt racing in general is lucky, damn lucky, to have the Swims.

(c)2007-2008 Doc Lehman