the late sixties, there was perhaps no other driver who
epitomized the hard charging character of NASCAR more than
Lonnie "LeeRoy" Yarbrough.
native’s name became synonymous with winning as he reigned
dominate in the white Junior Johnson-prepared Ford’s and
Yarbrough captured an impressive 7 victories and 21 top-tens in
win 14 races in total during his all-to-short career. Junior
Johnson would describe Yarbrough as “The best driver I ever
Yarbrough tried his hand at Indy Car racing
and led the inaugural California
500 at Ontario in 1970.
Unfortunately, in April 1970, he suffered a hard crash at
a test session at Texas World Speedway (lost). This crash caused
Yarbrough to have significant mental issues accompanied by
Factory pull-outs and other issues caused
Yarbrough to drop down to a second-tier team for the 1972 NASCAR
Winston Cup season.
He would drive the 45 car for journeyman driver Bill Siefert.
The team would put
together an incredible run with Yarbrough placing in the
Top-Five 5 times and the Top-Ten 9 times.
I saw Yarbrough at Nashville in August 1972, he looked a bit
different than he did a few years before.
His hair was long and he looked rough.
Yarbrough qualified 13th in the Siefert
Mercury and I looked for him to have a good race. However, as
the field headed to the flag stand to complete the first lap,
the 45 car pulled into the pits.
Yarbrough climbed out of his powder blue Mercury and
stated “I quit.”
would run two more races during the 1972 season, crashing out of
each race early.
career had come to an end.
In February 1980, Yarbrough would attempt
to kill his 65 year-old mother. For that action, he would be
committed to a Florida State Mental Facility.
Yarbrough had suffered brain trauma from his crashes and
he had also contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. He would
die of a seizure on December 7, 1984.
Perhaps fellow driver James Hylton summed
it up best by stating “that doggone tick. The Rocky Mountain
spotted fever—if it goes untreated, it’s a mental thing, and
it’ll drive you insane. They gave Lee Roy so much medication
when they finally did treat it that it eventually caused his
death. He just deteriorated to the point where he was
unmanageable. The man did not deserve that. Lee Roy was one of
the good ones.”
Rest in Peace LeeRoy.
Elliot held off both his father and Tony Stewart to win the SRX
Feature at Nashville
before one of the largest crowds at the speedway since the
departure of the NASCAR CUP Series in 1984.
The Elliott’s dominated most of
the race, with Bill Elliott leading giving up the lead on a late
race restart, allowing his son to take a lead he would never
Bill Elliott was the only driver competing that had
experience at Fairgrounds Speedway during the Winston Cup years
of 1958 - 84.
"I had a ball. I got to race against one
of my heroes; I got to race against Dad there throughout the
race. And those are moments I'll cherish forever," stated winner
Chase Elliott in Victory Lane. "… I don't know what lit a
fire under (Bill) tonight, but he was as aggressive as I've seen
him in years. It was amazing and a lot of fun.
"I thought it was gonna be between he and I, and I think he just
got a little high into (turn) one and missed that restart. But
other than that, it was so much fun."
Stewart, who clinched the Camping World
SRX Series championship before the second heat race ended, drove
from fifth in the 12-driver field to begin engaging the
Elliott’s just past the midpoint of the race. Stewart passed
Bill for second on lap 61 and promptly set his sights on Chase.
While Stewart got close, Chase held onto the lead and held off
“The ghost of Marty Robbins is here
somewhere,” said Ray Evernham, co-founder of the Camping World
SRX Series and the man who restored the racecar used by Robbins’
at the Fairgrounds during the sixties. “His number was 777, so
we picked 77 laps for the race distance, and then that caution
flag with seven laps left, that was for Marty. People ask what
all the cautions are for, and I say it’s to close the field up.
And they ask when are you going to throw them, and I say
whenever I feel like it.”
Mayor Cooper strikes deal to bring NASCAR back to
John Cooper and Bristol Motor Speedway have struck an initial deal
that could bring NASCAR back to Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway.
The city has signed a letter of intent with Bristol to renovate the
city's historic short track into a "significant money-making
operation" that will shift financial responsibility of renovations
and upkeep to the company. In a news release Friday, the
administration said the city will issue no more than $50 million in
bonds for racetrack renovations.
Under the deal, debt and project costs will be covered by revenues
generated from racing and other events held at the revamped venue,
including lease payments and taxes and fees collected from
visitors. State legislation is still needed in order for a portion
to ticket sales to be rerouted to fund improvements. Sponsors are
state Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, and state Rep. Ryan Williams,
historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is the second oldest operating motor
speedway in the United States. The only speedway with a longer history
of operations is the Milwaukee Mile, which held its first race in 1903.
The Fairgrounds Speedway's opening predates that of the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway by four years. The first automobile race held at
Nashville's Fairgrounds speedway took place at the dawn of the
automotive age on June 11, 1904. At that time, the track was
configured into a one and an eight-mile dirt oval. Soon automobile
races became an annual tradition and events would occur in conjunction with
the Tennessee State Fair until the 1940's. Pictured at right is the start
of a race at Fairgrounds Speedway from 1911.
1958, promoters Benny Goodman, Bill Donoho and Mark Parrish reconfigured the
track into a half-mile paved oval (1958 construction photo at left). On July 19, 1958, Charlie Griffin of
Chattanooga won the first race held on the new track. Weekly races
featuring both local and national drivers became
a fixture of the track along with the annual (later bi-annual)
the NASCAR Grand National / Winston Cup series. In
1969, the present 5/8-mile configuration was established with 35 degree banked
The tracks high banks generated a great deal of speed as evidenced by the
qualifying laps of the time period. The record for the 35 degree
configuration is held by NASCAR star Bobby Allison. The
Hueytown, Alabama based Allison qualified his Chevrolet Monte Carlo at a
blistering 116.932 mph for the 1972 Nashville 420. However,
the 35 degree banking proved to be too
treacherous for the local sportsman racers
and were modified after the 1972 season to the current day 18 degree banking.
grandstands (including the 1972 Nashville 420 pictured at left).
time and economics eventually lead Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway to be stricken
from the ranks of NASCAR's
Division in 1984. At the time Fairgrounds Speedway was owned by
California businessman Warner Hodgdon and his bankruptcy filing caused
NASCAR to pull its premier series from the track. The
track continued to host weekly NASCAR series racing
as well as the NASCAR Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series until the year
2000. Those races would move to the new Nashville
Superspeedway in 2001.
2020, the City of Nashville entered into discussions with
Bristol Motor Speedway / Speedway Motorsports, LLC, to explore the
possibility of bringing the track up to current NASCAR CUP Series standards.
These upgrades would include improvements to the grandstands as well as adding
garages and space for team hauler parking. The track would be managed by
Bristol Motor Sports and could possibly bring NASCAR racing back to the
track by the 2022 season. An artist’s interpretation on the improved
Fairgrounds Speedway can be seen at left. “Bristol Motor Speedway and
Speedway Motorsports are thrilled to take this step forward with Mayor
Cooper, the Fair Board, Metro Council and the neighborhood stakeholders,”
said Marcus Smith, president and chief executive officer of Speedway
Motorsports and Bristol Motor Speedway. “We can work together to transform
Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway into an amazing multipurpose entertainment
destination. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and go to work to fully
restore the speedway, recruit national events and breathe new life into a
venue that has a legendary status in auto racing history.”
Pentecost , Benny Quinn, Mike Alexander, Tony Roberts Ray Binkley Jr., David Mudd along with the photo achieves of The Tennessean for
This website is
dedicated to the drivers, teams, track officials and fans that have made Nashville
Fairgrounds Speedway one of the south's great sporting attractions.
site is also dedicated to my parents for enduring many pre and post races hours
while I took photos, helped independent drivers in the pits and collected