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Petty Family Has Plenty of Racing History in Music City

Saturday, June 22, 2024

When Richard Petty stood on the pinnacle of NASCAR Cup racing, Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville was a staple on the series schedule.

“All four generations of Pettys ran there, and there are very few race tracks that can say that,” said Petty, who enjoyed enormous success racing under the lights at the challenging short track.

Petty won nine of the 42 races held at the Fairgrounds from 1958 through 1984, one more than local favorite Darrell Waltrip.

“We always looked forward to going there, because we always had a chance to win there. It wasn’t all a Darrell Waltrip operation,” said Petty, who won five straight Nashville races—three from the pole—from 1964 through 1967.

Competing at Nashville truly was a family affair for the Pettys. Patriarch Lee Petty, a three-time series champion, raced there four times from 1958 through 1960, finishing no worse than sixth in any of his outings there.

For the first 12 years of its existence, Fairgrounds Speedway was a half-mile paved oval. For the 1970 season, it was expanded to its current length of 0.596 miles.

“It was a fast track,” recalled long-time Petty crew chief Dale Inman, a NASCAR Hall of Famer like Richard and Lee Petty. “It had a pretty good bank to it. The odd thing about it was the way we had to pit. You’d come in and make the circle on the quarter-mile, but like everything else, you had to adjust to it.”

Kyle Petty, Richard’s son, raced at the Fairgrounds for the first time in 1981 and scored his only two top-10 finishes at the track that year.

Fourth-generation driver Adam Petty finished eighth at the Fairgrounds in his only ASA National Series start in 1998, two years before he lost his life in an accident during practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Despite Richard Petty’s record there, the Petty family’s lasting memories of Nashville aren’t focused only on the successes. Both Richard Petty and Inman remember the heat.

“That was one hot place, because there was a fence all the way around it, and we pitted the cars down in the hole,” Richard Petty said.

“That and Birmingham were the two hottest places on the circuit,” added Inman, who also remembers the long drives across the mountains from the Level Cross, North Carolina, headquarters of Petty Enterprises.

After one night race at the Fairgrounds, Inman drove all night to meet broadcaster Ken Squier for a feature at his home.

When NASCAR came to Nashville, drivers and crews took over the Mercury Court Motel at 411 Murfreesboro Road, which featured 100 rooms.

“A lot of truck drivers stayed there,” said Inman.

“And there was a diner out back where we used to eat,” added Petty.

Interestingly, racing hasn’t been the only contribution of the Petty family to Music City, An accomplished singer and songwriter, Kyle Petty has performed both at the Ryman and within the legendary circle of wood at The Opry.

But it will be racing that dominates when the NASCAR Cup Series comes to Nashville Superspeedway for the June 30 Ally 400. Richard Petty will be there in his capacity as a principal in the Legacy Motor Club team, as the Pettys celebrate 75 years in the sport.

“We were here when it first started,” Petty said. “We’ve been here through all the changes in the cars—different kinds of tracks, different rules, all this kind of stuff ... We were here when it started. We were here when it was changing, and we’ll be here when it’s going to change again. From that standpoint, I just feel good from my part and the Petty family’s, being able to be involved in NASCAR for this many years.”

[Nashville Superspeedway will honor the Petty family with its unveiling of the King's Hat statue in the fan zone at 3 p.m. CT on June 28 ahead of the Rackley Roofing 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.]

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Race Schedule and Tickets
Nashville Superspeedway’s 2024 race schedule includes: 
Friday, June 28
Rackley Roofing 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race
7 p.m. CT, FS2, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio 

Saturday, June 29
Tennessee Lottery 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race
4 p.m. CT, USA, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio 

Sunday, June 30
Ally 400 NASCAR Cup Series race
2:30 p.m. CT, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio 

Sunday, Sept. 15
NTT IndyCar Series Big Machine Music City Grand Prix
2 p.m. CT, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Live, SiriusXM 

Call 866.RACE.TIX to discuss your options with an account representative, or visit Tickets for children ages 12 and younger (with a paying adult) are free for the NASCAR races on Friday and Saturday and are only $10 for Sunday. 

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About Nashville Superspeedway
Nashville Superspeedway, Middle Tennessee’s racing jewel, is a year-round family-friendly destination in one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. The 1.33-mile D-shaped track with 14 degrees of banking has hosted three NASCAR Cup Series races, 24 NASCAR Xfinity Series races, 16 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events and eight INDYCAR SERIES contests. The largest concrete-only track in NASCAR, Nashville Superspeedway is owned by Speedway Motorsports.