The Early Days
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 sprang 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.
The track was converted to a half-mile paved oval in 1957, when its began to be a NASCAR series track.
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 front stretch 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).
A 1959 NASCAR Grand National race of 200 laps in 1959 was unique; it was the first time an entire starting field (12 of 12 cars) finished the race, one of four instances it has happened in NASCAR Nextel Cup history. That would not happen again until 36 years later, when the entire field at the 1995 Tyson Holly Farms 400 finished the race.
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.
Coo Coo Marlin was the first back-to-back champion in 1965/1966. 1968 champion P.B. Crowell decided to retire, and hired the talented young Darrell Waltrip to drive his car.
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 speedway was lengthened between the 1969 and 1970 seasons.
The banking 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 Steve Spencer (NASCAR) Mike Alexander (NASCAR) (son of car owner R.C.) were all track champions. Alabama Gang member Jimmy Means took the track title home to Alabama in 1974 before he moved on to NASCAR’s Winston Cup.
The track returned to hosting weekly races in 1980. In 1984, the top NASCAR series fielded its final race at the facility after disputes with city government and track management. 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. Second generation driver and son to Fairgrounds Native Tony Formosa SR., took the 1989 Fairgrounds LMSC Championship Title Nicky Formosa.
The 1990 season was dominated by Jeff Green. Mike Reynolds won the 1991 track championship. Mike Alexander won the 1992 track championship. Chad Chaffin won the 1993 and 1995 track championships. Andy Kirby won the 1994, 1996, and 1997 track championships. Joe Buford won the 1998 and 1999 track championships.
In 1995, the track returned to the NASCAR circuit, hosting a yearly NASCAR Busch Series race and later, a yearly NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. Those races would move to the new Nashville Superspeedway in 2001.
The track was repaved between the 1995 and 1996 seasons.
The track was renamed “Music City Motorplex” for 2004 by new promoter Joe Mattioli III, whose family owns Pocono Raceway and South Boston Speedway.
The 2007 schedule featured races in NASCAR’s two regional series, including Grand National (Busch East) and a Whelen Modified (Southern) event.
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.
In 2009, the tracks prestigious All American 400 was canceled and not rescheduled because of severe rain and political issues.
The speedway is currently an 18 degree banked paved oval. The track is 0.596-mile (0.959 km) long. Inside the larger oval is a quarter-mile paved oval.
NASCAR Winston Cup
- 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.
- Geoff Bodine beat Darrell Waltrip for his second career win in the last Winston Cup race at the track.
- 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.
- Of the 42 Cup races, Richard Petty has nine wins, with Darrell Waltrip right behind with eight wins. Waltrip won 5 of 6 races between 1981 and 1984. Waltrip’s victory in the 1988 Busch Series event gives him the career best nine wins total at the track. Counting NASCAR, USAC, ASA, and local track races, Waltrip holds the all-time track record for wins with 67.
- The track held 9 Busch Series races in 1984, 1988, 1989, and from 1995
- The track was replaced on the schedule by the newly opened
Craftsman Truck Series
- The track held 5 Craftsman Truck Series events between 1996 and 2000.
- The track was replaced on the schedule by the newly opened Nashville
NOTABLE WEEKLY DRIVERS
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
- Mike Alexander – 1978 & 1992 track champion
- Willie Allen – NASCAR Fairgrounds Speedway champion
- Casey Atwood – 1996 Rookie of the Year
- Bunkie Blackburn – regular weekly competitor
- Joe Buford – 4 time track champion
- Chad Chaffin – 2 time track champion
- Mark Day – 2006 track champion
- Jeff Green – 1990 track champion
- Bobby Hamilton Sr. – 1987 & 1988 track champion (plus 2 time champion
in a lower division)
- Andy Kirby – 1994, 1996 & 1997 track champion
- Coo Coo Marlin – 4 time track champion
- Steadman Marlin – Grandson of Coo Coo Marlin son of Sterling Marlin part time Busch series driver and part time Fairgrounds competitor
- Sterling Marlin – 1980, 1981 & 1982 track champion
- Jimmy Means – 1974 track champion
- Jeremy Mayfield – regular weekly competitor
- Chase Montgomery – ran the full 2000 season
- 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 Fairgrounds Speedway at Nashville.
- Darrell Waltrip – 1970 1973 track champion