When the schedule was dramatically slashed, many traditional tracks - particularly in the eastern time zone - lost their race dates. Perhaps as a way to ease their way out of relationship vs. leaving cold turkey, NASCAR formed the Grand National East series. The series only lasted for a couple of years; however, NASCAR later formed the Busch North Series in the mid 1980s to fill a similar role.
The series ran several tracks discarded from the Cup schedule such as Columbia, Hickory, Myrtle Beach and Kingsport. In 1972, the series ran the Mr. D's 200, its one and only event at a track that remained on the Cup schedule - Nashville Speedway.
|Source: Russ Thompson - Nashville Fairgrounds blog|
- Jim Paschal who raced Cup actively through much of the 1960s and won frequently as a driver for Petty Enterprises
- NASCAR HOFer Buck Baker whose heyday was in the 1950s when he won 2 GN titles
- D.K. Ulrich - long-time driver and owner for a multitude of up-and-comers including Al Loquasto
- Richard Childress who struggled for 15 years as a driver before striking gold as the owner for Dale Earnhardt
- Elmo Langley, a two-time GN winner who later became NASCAR's pace car driver
- Dick May - an independent who later became a rep for STP
- Wayne Andrews - a regular participant and winner in the Grand American series
- Tiny Lund, winner of the 1963 Daytona 500 and a multi-race winner in the GNE division.
- Cup regulars and brothers, Bobby and Donnie Allison
|L to R: Tiny Lund, Bobby Allison, Jim Paschal|
Bobby Allison brought a #49 Coca-Cola Mustang Fastback to Nashville. The car was owned by Mel Joseph and had been raced in a few Grand National / Grand American combo races - including at Winston-Salem's Bowman Gray Stadium in 1971. Allison took the checkered flag over Richard Petty in the Mustang; however, NASCAR did not (and still doesn't) recognize the victory as an official Winston Cup win for Allison. (Interestingly, Petty wasn't given the win either.)
Perhaps as expected, Allison laid down the quickest lap to nab the pole. But the margin to second was maybe closer than he had counted as veteran Paschal showed he still knew the quick way around the track. (Paschal won three consecutive GN races at Nashville in 1961, 1962, and 1963).
making his Cup debut in the Winston 500 at Talladega. The fans were winners because some of the national drivers also raced in the late model event plus were out-qualified by many of the locals.
|Source: The Tennessean - May 13, 1972|
|Credit: Russ Thompson|
The Fairgrounds once had the oddest of pit roads. Drivers came through turn 4 on the .596-mile track, crossed the start-finish line, turned left onto the inner quarter-mile track, pitted, returned to the track, crossed the start-finish line again (though not completing another lap), and headed for turn 1. Drivers, officials and scorers were frequently confused as to who was on what lap, who had pitted, etc.
The confusion was present again during the GNE race. Rather than slow or stop the race to sort out things, officials let 'em race and tried to figure it out on the fly. As a result, the scoreboard was bouncing around with 'lead changes' though no passes were being made on the track.
Allison got out front about one-third of the way through the race. Waltrip tried to make the best of a good opportunity in Lund's car and did his best to track down Bobby. But after running like a scalded dog, Waltrip's car lost an engine with about 15 laps to go. Allison then cruised home to take the victory. Waltrip and Allison would wage many more battles over the next 10-12 years - especially in the early 80s on the Cup level.
|Source: The Tennesseean - May 14, 1972|
|Courtesy of Russ Thompson|
I encourage you to visit GrandNationalEast.com authored by Jeff Droke, long-time crewman for James Hylton, for more information about the series.
Edited August 27, 2014