Paris track is home away from home for local racers

By JOSEPH ELERSON | News-Telegram Sports Writer

July 28, 2007 - PARIS - To the racers of Paris Motor Speedway, Cumby native Ricky Bunch is known as a legend.

For first-year driver Jonathan Cameron, getting his name out to his fellow racers is a brand new experience.

When the both of them take to the track, along with many others who gather at the speedway, it's their own version of Talladega Nights - Paris Style.

Every Saturday night, drivers from all over the area, even some coming from as far away as Hugo, Okla. come to get a piece of the glory. Or just to earn a few bragging rights.

"A lot of the drivers love the proximity of this track since it is close to us," Bunch said. "It is a nice race track and a nice facility and some of them go to Greenville and race. Most of these drivers pick a home track and that is where they race."

The racers are divided up into five different classes: Pony Stocks, Hobby Stocks, Stock Cars, IMCA Sport Modifieds and IMCA Modified cars. Sixteen drivers from Hopkins County race at the track during the season.

After a five-week absence due to the unexpected death of his wife, Bunch chose last Saturday as the day he would return to the race track to honor her memory.

"This is the first time that I have come back to try and race. I don't know if I can do it or not," he said. "Physically, I know that I can race but mentally, I am not sure if I am prepared to come back to racing. She loved racing and I think she would want me to, and I am going to try and race. We were both best friends so everything I did I dedicated to her so it didn't matter about that."

Bunch said the track holds a special place in his heart since he has been there from the very start nearly 10 years ago. Bunch is currently in the top 10 in the IMCA SportMods and is currently 28th in the IMCA Modifieds.

"I first came over here when it was a new track and Paul Stephens had just opened it up. We came over and have been racing here ever since then. It has been eight or nine years and I had been working on a lot of cars for people that live in the Paris area," he said.

"I used to race in Greenville and then started racing over here. At that time, Greenville raced on Friday night and Paris raced on Saturday nights so I raced both events."

For Cameron, this is the first year that he has taken part in the action at the Paris Motor Speedway.

"My stepdad raced 10 years ago when we were little kids and we decided we would go back into racing this year," he said. "We got a sponsor in S&J Contractors, and they got the cars that we are driving."

Cameron is currently in seventh place in the Hobby Stock category this season after finishing in third last Saturday in the main event. The Hobby Stocks are regular stock cars that have been gutted out and had racing parts put in the car that can make it go nearly 80 mph on the dirt track.

"This season has gone good for me with this being my first year," Cameron said. "I have won one race and won at another track this season. At this track, I have finished first, second and fourth one night."

Cameron said after the success of this season, he expects to return to the race track with his stepfather Alan Screws next season.

"We are expecting to come back out here and race next year. I am hoping within a couple of years to move up to a new class," he said. "I am trying to learn how to drive this car and learn how the track changes every night."

For Bunch, returning to the track with his racing family was the motivating factor in finishing out this season.

"I came back because I got so many friends here and I can't tell you what the season holds," Bunch said. "I would definitely like to win some races and dedicate them to my wife but we will wait to see what happens. I have been doing this for nearly 40 years and it is a lot of fun racing against them."

Note: The 16 racers from Hopkins County are Bruce Edwards, Randy Janway, Cameron, Corey Edwards, Douglas Anderson, Chayson Ross, Tony Ross, Chad Ross, Wendell Claxton, Bunch, Craig Mosley, Sean Wells, Screws, Scott Wells, Leon Gunn and Chris Gunn. ... The Paris Motor Speedway is open every Saturday night through Sept. 30 with racers beginning at 8 p.m. .... The racers have a 10-lap qualifying race and then a 20-lap main event in each class.

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