When actor John Schneider was racing around corners in the General Lee, the car he and Tom Wopat made famous as Bo and Luke Duke on the "Dukes of Hazzard," for a promo shoot or movie, there was never another car anywhere close to him. Movie magic made it look otherwise, but he was never in any real danger.
But when COVID-19 hit and he found himself either performing or showing one of his latest film projects at dirt tracks, he decided to actually get behind the wheel of a race car and try it for real, racing against drivers more interested in winning than in making sure the cameras were getting the right shots.
While Schneider said he was a little worried at first, he has since fallen in love with "throwing my car around corners.
"As my grandpa would say, 'I took to it like a duck to water.' I was nervous. I won't say scared, but once I had my first wreck, I was OK," he said. "I realized when everybody is going 100 miles an hour and you hit each other, it's not that bad. I love it."
The actor/director/writer/singer, and now driver, also has developed a fondness for the tri-state area. He's returning on Saturday afternoon around 2:30 to sing the national anthem at Boyd's Speedway in Ringgold, Georgia. The day's racing is set to begin at 12:30 p.m.
The event will feature several classes, including Super Late Model, Crate 604, Beginner and Enduro with cash prizes for each event. Boyd's opened in 1951 as a dirt track and at one point converted to asphalt before tearing that up and putting the dirt track back in place.
It was purchased by Russell Racing in 2020 and is undergoing updating.
The track has 27 races planned for the coming year.
"It's a beautiful place," Schneider said. "My wife, Alicia Allain, and I have fallen in love with dirt track racing. We've only been to four or five tracks around the country, but Boyd's is so nice. The stands, the concessions area, the track. Everything."
Schneider borrowed a friend's car for his first race last fall, but has since gotten his own, which he races in the Open Wheeled Modified class.
"I think the frame is an '82 Monte Carlo," he said.
He and his wife are so taken with the sport, they are having his and hers cars built "because she wants to beat me," he said with a laugh. They will return to Boyd's in October for a breast cancer awareness event that will include food from Louisiana, where they live now, some of his carnival-performing friends and a musical performance by Schneider.
COVID-19 has reintroduced dirt tracks, as well as drive-in movie theaters, to a large number of people as a place to see a movie, hold a live music concert, or both, and Schneider has taken full advantage. An independent filmmaker, he wrote and directed "Stand on It" earlier this year in homage to one of his favorite films, "Smokey and the Bandit."
Schneider will begin production of a sequel called "Poker Run" in March. A huge fan of "The Wild, Wild West" growing up, he said he has always been fascinated with the caboose that lead characters Artemus Gordon and James West traveled in. Knowing his fondness for them, Alicia Allain found one and had it moved to the movie studio space in Louisiana. It is being refurbished and will be used in the film.
Dirt tracks also will be featured.
"It's a poker run, and we will be traveling all over playing hands of cards," Schneider said, likening it to the 1963 madcap comedy 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.'
"All over the place," he said.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.