1891 Birth of the Nashville Speedway
On this day, a one-mile dirt track opened for harness races at the site of the present-day Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville. Harness racing proved a popular event at the annual Tennessee State Fair, but it was nothing compared to the excitement generated by the fair's first automobile race, held at the fairgrounds in 1904. For the next 50 years, motor racing events were the highlight of the annual state fair, drawing top American drivers to compete, and launching the careers of others. In 1956, the track was paved and lighted, and the tradition of weekly Saturday night racing at the fairgrounds was born. And in 1958, NASCAR came to Nashville with the introduction of the NASCAR Winston Cup to be run on a brand-new half-mile oval. The legendary driver Joe Weatherly won the first Winston Cup, beating the likes of Fireball Turner, Lee Petty, and Curtis Turner in the 200-lap event. Between 1958 and 1984, the fairgrounds hosted 42 NASCAR Winston Cups, and Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip were the overall leaders in victories, with nine and eight Winston Cups respectively. The last Winston Cup race to descend onto the Tennessee State Fairgrounds was a 420-lap event won by driver Geoff Bodine. But despite the departure of the Winston Cup, the Nashville Speedway continued to improve on its racetrack, and illustrious racing events such as the Busch Series are held on the historic track every year.