Photographer Paul O’Mara lives five miles from the Rome International Speedway in Northwest Georgia. His report of a season at the track.

Fellowship. Where I live in Northwest Georgia, it’s a term for a social gathering tied to shared beliefs that mostly have to do with religion but you don’t say that. That describes the Rome International Speedway.

On Sunday evenings from May through August I hear the growl of stock cars from my house. I live five miles from the track. The signs on the four-lane pop up a few days before race night in case the date slips your mind. This year, I took that windy drive down Chulio Road to see what it was all about.

The speedway is a red clay oval proudly proclaimed as the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile Clay Track.” Facts about the speedway are elusive but it’s safe to say that by the looks of the place, it’s been around for a while. Fifty years some guess. When I worked at the local newspaper in the 1980s, it was operated by Mickey and Martha Swims. Mickey and his family still run the track today, as well as the Dixie Speedway over in Canton, GA.

During prohibition, bootleggers hired drivers who modified their cars to outrun the law. Moonshiners eventually began racing against each other, cutting out tracks in corn fields or finding quiet mountain roads to compete.

That tradition plays out today on dirt track stadiums: drivers invest thousands of dollars into their cars, tires, replacement parts and trailers to compete. The winning prize is cash, but never enough to cover the costs. Like the moonshine drivers before them, it’s all about racing, family and tradition. Fellowship.