STORY AND PHOTOS BY CAREY REEDER
Every March through October the hills of Chilton County roar with the sound of racecars filling the Saturday night sky. The fresh smell of racing fuel consumes the air, and the racers at Buckshot Speedway go full throttle to see who places in the big money.
Buckshot Speedway, also known as “The Bullseye,” is located at 1034 County Road 76 in Clanton and has given local race car drivers a new venue to do the thing they love. Race.
The 3/8 mile dirt oval features 11 degrees of banking and is the brainchild of its owner, Billy Wilkins.
Wilkins is a generational racer whose family loved the sport.
Wilkins’ father raced in the 1960s, and when Wilkins was growing up near Talladega in the 1980s, he raced too at the dirt track there.
“I have always raced and my whole family has been involved with racing,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins has not raced since he began building Buckshot Speedway, but has not ruled out getting back behind the wheel. Right now, he is determined to keep expanding Buckshot Speedway and creating one of the best short tracks in central Alabama.
Wilkins and friends wanted to build a track, and he took it upon himself to turn a dream into a reality.
“It was a dream and we had all talked about it, and Billy really committed to it and had some good folks helping him,” Buckshot Speedway promoter Denny Edwards said. “Billy made a great decision to try, and the team surrounding him was amazing. He put us on the map.”
Wilkins was originally interested in buying the land the old race track off Highway 22 sat on, and he contemplated buying it. However, he found the 82 acres on County Road 76 and broke ground in 2020 on Buckshot Speedway. 2022 was the track’s first full season of racing.
The first race held in November of 2021 brought 92 race cars in for a single night of racing.
“When you meet Billy, the humbleness just oozes out of him,” Edwards said. “You cannot match his commitment … You would not know he owns the place if you talked to him.”
Edwards said he was not sure the track could hold over 100 race cars, but it has.
“Bringing that speedway here, it gives folks something to do on Saturday night,” Edwards said.
Shannon Padgett, one of the key components of the team at Buckshot Speedway, works in the pits with the cars during races to keep things in order. He is almost a lifer in Chilton County and said the racing community locally has always been strong, and he hopes to continue to facilitate that growth with Buckshot Speedway.
“There are quite a few local cars that come to our races, and there are more expected this season. It is a growing community here for sure,” Padgett said. “Since I have been helping, a lot of it has come a long way as far as parking and stuff. When you pull in, parking is crazy, and it is so full all around the race track. We have had a lot of seating and parking improvements, and it is still growing.”
The speedway went from a few single bleachers to now a full grandstand on the front stretch and seating around the turns. Wilkins said the track is also a working progress and more seating, parking, bathrooms and other amenities will be added throughout the season to accommodate their fans.
In their highest attendance, Buckshot Speedway hosted 126 cars in one night for a United Crate Racing Alliance event during the 2022 season.
Wilkins said he has been to hundreds of race tracks in his lifetime, but there is not a better fan base than at Buckshot Speedway.
“I would not trade our fanbase for any other race track I have been to,” Wilkins said.
Buckshot Speedway hosts multiple racing classes throughout their season which include 604 and 602 late models, factory stock, open wheel series and two buzz classes (four and six cylinder). Racing happens every Saturday night from March-October with gates opening at 3 p.m., a drivers meeting at 6 p.m. and then racing starts at 7 p.m. Buckshot Speedway gives out money to all racers who enter, and the higher the finishing position,
the higher the purse is.
A mixture of local racers from Chilton County and racers from across the southeast come to Buckshot Speedway to race. The speedway also hosts big racing series who make a stop on their season schedule, such as the Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series which came in 2022.
“We have several big series that come through here,” Wilkins said. “We have some sprint cars coming this season, too.”
The United Sprint Car Series will visit Buckshot Speedway in 2023, a series that has not been to Chilton County in over 20 years. The speedway hosted four big events with racing series last season, and they expect to double that number in 2023. Series such as the Red Clay Series, Southern Nationals Super Late Model Series and USCS will all make stops at The Bullseye in 2023. The Southern All Star Dirt Series is expecting to be back for three different events this year as well.
Edwards said help from drivers such as Tim Roszell, multi-time track champion at the Talladega Dirt Track and Ice Bowl winner, coming to race at Buckshot Speedway has helped it grow.
“We had some outside help from some big-name drivers. We have just been so blessed and so fortunate,” Edwards said.
Buckshot Speedway puts on kids bicycle races and remote-control car races in between races and throws out prizes to fans to keep the good time rolling the entire name.
“It is a family thing here, and it is not just for drivers,” Padgett said. “We try to make it a good time for all who come out.”
The 2023 racing season at Buckshot Speedway starts on March 25.