Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville is a NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series racetrack located at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds near downtown Nashville, Tennessee. The track is one of the oldest tracks in the United States. The track held NASCAR Grand National/Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) races from 1958 to 1984, when it was called Nashville Speedway USA. In the early 2000s, the name was changed to Music City Motorplex. Following another change in track management, the speedway became known as Fairgrounds Speedway at Nashville.
Track Configuration HistoryEdit
Nashville Speedway USA is currently an 18 degree banked paved oval. The track is 0.596 mile long. Inside the larger oval is a quarter-mile paved oval.
The track was converted to a half-mile paved oval in 1957, when its began to be a NASCAR series track. The speedway was lengthened between the 1969 and 1970 seasons. The corners were cut down from 35 degrees to their present 18 degrees in 1972. The track was repaved between the 1995 and 1996 seasons.
The track first featured "horseless carriages" and motorcycles on June 11, 1904 on a 1 1/8 (1.125) mile dirt oval. Races were canceled after a motorcycle ran in to the back of a car that was lining up. Harness (horse) racing events were also held at the track.
In September 1904 another series of races was organized. Most of the entrants came directly to Nashville from the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. Racing pioneer Barney Oldfield was one of the entrants. People marveled at cars driving over 60 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour).
The track began holding annual events in September 1915 to coincide with the state fair. Many of the same drivers from the Indianapolis 500 brought their cars down to Nashville.
Local tracks sprange up and began running weekly Saturday night shows (collectively called the "Legion Bowl"), and the local racers competed at the track for the 1954 through 1957 State Fairs. In 1958 car racers decided to build a paved racetrack. The racers ended opposition from horse racers by building a horse track. The racers got a 10-year lease from the state fair board in order to build a paved 1/2 mile track which shared the frontstretch with a 1/4 mile track. On July 19, 1958, the first race was held at the new speedway. Races were held only on the 1/4 mile track (except for special events).
The original cars (since 1948) were 1930s model cars called "Modified Specials". By 1964 the parts for cars were too hard to find, so the track changed to newer 1950s model cars called "Late Model Modifieds". Some of the early stars of the track decided to retire.
The 1960s also frequently brought drivers from outside Nashville, most notably the Alabama Gang. The Alabama Gang (from Hueytown, Alabama) included future NASCAR legends Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison, and Nashville native Red Farmer.
Several changes happened at the track in the 1960s. Lights were added to the 1/2 mile track in 1965, and races in the main division moved to the big track. A fire burned the grandstands at the 1965 State Fair. Weekly Tuesday night races were added, and fans were awed by the crazy Figure-8 drivers barely missing each other as they crossed each other's paths. New grandstands were built and the track was lengthened (and banked to 35 degrees) in 1969.
The bankings in the corners proved to be too fast, so the banking was reduce to 18 degrees. The new ownership decided to hold no weekly races in 1979.
The 1970s also featured talented drivers that would progress to NASCAR's highest division. Second generation drivers Sterling Marlin (son of Coo Coo) and Mike Alexander (son of car owner R.C.) were both track champions. Alabama Gang member Jimmy Means took the track title home to Alabama in 1974 before he moved on to NASCAR.
In 1980 the track reopened to weekly racing. The new headline division featured smaller Camaro-type bodies called "Late Model Stock Cars". The new division caught on slowly, and only 13 drivers competed in the first race. The division finally caught on in 1987. NASCAR stars that raced in 1987 or 1988 included Bobby Allison, Sterling Marlin, Mike Alexander, Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott, and Dale Earnhardt. Third generation driver Bobby Hamilton won track championships in 1987 and 1988.
The 1990 season was dominated by Jeff Green. Chad Chaffin won the 1993 and 1995 track championships. Andy Kirby won the 1994, 1996, and 1997 track championships before being killed in a motorcycle accident in 2002. Busch Series races continued at the track, including some notable finishes in 1998 and 2000. The Camping World Truck Series also ran at the track. However, in late 1996, the plan for the new Nashville Superspeedway was announced, meaning that the races would be moved to that 1.333-mile facility when it was openeed in 2001.
The 2007 schedule featured races in NASCAR's two regional series, including Grand National (Busch East) and a Whelen Modified (Southern) event.
The 2008 season marked a critical year for the historic track. The lease was up in December 2008, and the Tennessee State Fair Board hired a consultant to do a future use study. However, after much discussion, new promoter Denny Denson agreed to run the facility in 2009. In 2009, Music City Motorplex was to host an ARCA RE/MAX Series event on June 20, but it was announced on February 20, 2009 that the race would be moved to Mansfield Motorsports Park in Mansfield, Ohio. The annual Camping World East Series was also cancelled. Most of these issues could be placed on the philosophies of new track management and the testing ban NASCAR enforced to save money. That ban prevented teams from testing at any NASCAR-sanctioned track. Had Nashville remained under sanction, it would stand to lose thousands of dollars from track rental to testing NASCAR teams.
NASCAR Winston Cup track historyEdit
The track held at least one Cup race each year from 1958 to 1984.
A capacity crowd of 13,998 watched Joe Weatherly win the first NASCAR race on August 10, 1958.
NASCAR left the track because the grandstands are too small, and because of a dispute over who would manage the track took place prior to the start of the 1985 season.
NASCAR Winston Cup winnersEdit
Busch Series EventsEdit
|1984||Jack Ingram||7||11||Jack Ingram||Pontiac|
|1988||Darrell Waltrip||12||17||Darrell Waltrip||Chevrolet|
|1989||Rick Mast||2||22||Alan Dillard, Jr.||Buick|
|1995||David Green||5||44||Bob Labonte||Chevrolet|
|1996||Bobby Labonte||25||44||Bob Labonte||Chevrolet|
|1997||Steve Park||18||3||Dale Earnhardt, Inc.||Chevrolet|
|1998||Mike McLaughlin||21||34||Frank Cicci||Chevrolet|
|1999||Jeff Green||18||10||Greg Pollex||Chevrolet|
|2000||Randy LaJoie||28||1||Phoenix Racing||Chevrolet|
Craftsmen Truck Series EventsEdit
|1996||Dave Rezendes||14||7||Geoffrey Bodine||Ford|
|1997||Jack Sprague||3||24||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|1998||Jimmy Hensley||30||43||Petty Enterprises||Dodge|
|1999||Dennis Setzer||4||1||Bob Keselowski||Dodge|
|2000||Randy Tolsma||7||25||David Hodson||Dodge|
List of Famous Former Weekly DriversEdit
The number and quality of former weekly drivers to reach the upper levels of NASCAR demonstrates how high the competition level must have been at the track, and the importance that the track has had to the sport.
Joe Buford - 4 time track champion
Andy Kirby - 3 time track champion
Chad Chaffin - 2 time track champion
Mike Alexander - 2 time track champion
Jeff Green - 1 time champion
Bobby Hamilton - 2 time track champion (plus 2 time champion in a lower division)
Sterling Marlin - 3 time track champion
Jimmy Means - 1 time track champion
Darrell Waltrip - 2 time track champion
Coo Coo Marlin - 4 time track champion
Deborah Renshaw - became the first woman to ever lead a NASCAR sanctioned series when the young woman climbed to the top of the points standings at Nashville Speedway USA.
Chase Montgomery - ran the full 2000 season
Casey Atwood - 1996 Rookie of the Year
Jeremy Mayfield - regular weekly competitor
Bunkie Blackburn - regular weekly competitor
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