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Corey Stamper Dishes on King of the South, a $50,000-to-Win Invitation-Only Small Tire Race

Steven Ballard photo

Spoold Media owner Corey Stamper set social media abuzz recently with the announcement of King of the South, a $50,00- to-win, invitation-only small tire race May 24-26 at Shadyside Dragway in Shelby, North Carolina.

Stamper, along with promoting partners Seth and Zach Buff – Seth is the owner and operator of Shadyside, while Zach is the Track Manager and Race Director – have put on various events in the past, but are taking it to the next level this season, allowing 64 drivers to race for the huge cash prize. 

“We’ve always been small tire guys,” said Stamper. “We started kicking around the idea of bringing back how it used to be – to see who’s the baddest on a 28-inch slick. Seth hit me up one day and said, ‘What if we paid $50,000 to win? Do you think that’d be a pretty big race?’ I looked at him like he was crazy. I mean, that’s a lot of money. But I told him, ‘If you’re down to do it, I’m with you, buddy.’ And that 50 grand is guaranteed – someone will be handed that in cash.” 

One of the key components to King of the South is the invite-only format. As invitations were accepted and shared by drivers to the public, Stamper quickly became overwhelmed with texts and messages from racers wanting to be a part of the historic event. 

“It’s blooming into something crazy,” Stamper said. “I dropped the announcement the week of PRI (Performance Racing Industry), and my phone battery drained within an hour. For the next few weeks, I was getting about 30 messages an hour from people wanting in on the race. Some people love it, some people hate it. Everybody suddenly wants to be invited, wants to be let in. Some will be mad they didn’t get invited. And we’ve still got more drivers to announce. In fact, I’ve joked the full invite list is under lock & key at Fort Knox.”  

Fans will recognize many of the drivers who have received their “Golden Ticket,” including Kye Kelley, Lyle Barnett, Manny Buginga, and Justin Swanstrom. Stamper is excited to see many of these well-known names line up against some lesser known small-tire competitors and hometown heroes.

“It’s a collection of the biggest names in racing,” said Stamper. “You have old school, new school, no prep, prep, street racers. I call it a hybrid race, because you’ll never see some of these match-ups anywhere else. It’s going to be the biggest race ever in the Carolinas.” 

Racers will be allowed to test on Friday; they will then be given two shakedown passes on Saturday before rolling into the first-round chip draw and eliminations. Racing will conclude on Sunday, with a second-chance race added for drivers that lost in the opening round. The track will feature a basic bracket-style prep, allowing for close side-by-side racing without a lot of down time for track maintenance.  

“I’m sure everyone gets sick of waiting on track prep for racing to start,” Stamper said. “I’m not a fan of that. We want to bridge the gap between the no prep world and the radial prep world, to find a happy medium. We’re big on getting the race done, where a normal family can come out and enjoy it. I feel like that’s what we need to get back to.” 

In addition to the Small Tire Invitational, the event will feature the Lil Gangstas class, which will run on a 5.30 index, although times will not be shown. Stamper said the support for the class has been almost as overwhelming as the main event, with everyone allowed to participate. 

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 “I’ve probably had 60-70 messages from people wanting to run Lil Gangstas,” said Stamper. “Anybody that shows up and pays $200 can race. All you have to do is fit the rules.”  

King of the South will also be headlining the 6th Annual Ronnie Buff Memorial weekend, honoring the original owner and operator of Shadyside Dragway – and grandfather to Seth and Zach – who tragically passed away due to cancer. 

“That family eats, sleeps, and breathes drag racing,” Stamper said. “They live on the track compound. Ronnie’s actually buried on-site at the track. He was a big influence on bringing Outlaw 10.5 and small tire racing to Shadyside. This is our way of showing him, ‘Hey, this is the biggest weekend on the calendar. Everyone wants to win the Ronnie Buff Memorial.’ So when we came up with King of the South, we knew the biggest small tire race in the south had to be a part of the biggest weekend at Shadyside.”  

This story was originally published on January 31, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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