Saturday, June 21, 2014

June 21, 1975: Neil and Woody in Nashville

With a subject line of Neil, Woody and Nashville, one might infer this post would be about folk protest music. Instead, it's one about racing as is always the case here ... well, that and Schaefer beer.

A couple of times in the mid to late 70s, my family went to Nashville's fairgrounds speedway for a dual ARCA / NASCAR Late Model Sportsman night. Both races were 200 laps...I think. While I don't remember the specifics of any of them including the winners, I do remember a few general themes:
  • My dad wanted to see the a handful of drivers race: L.D. Ottinger, Harry Gant, and Butch Lindley.
  • The ARCA race always seemed to have a lot of wrecks which extended its duration and delayed the start of the LMS race.
  • My dad groused about how late it was getting without the LMS race being completed. (He is now 79 and still whines about that situation.)
  • I just wanted to see cars race lap after lap regardless of the time.
On June 21, 1975, the track hosted such a double header though the LMS race was only 100 laps and didn't draw as many of the national touring drivers. I don't think we attended this race as our regular visits began in 1976.

The late model sportsman race was sponsored by Uniroyal Tires. As a promotion, track promoter Bill Donoho brought in the stunt driving team of Uni, Roy, and Al. Yes, seriously.

Except that particular evening the trio simply made an appearance and distributed photos vs. thrilling the crowd with their driving skills. I'm guessing in retrospect the appearance fee probably wasn't quite large enough to cover the stunts.

The Tennessean - June 20, 1975
Darrell Waltrip, the all-time wins leader at the the time at the fairgrounds and a two-time track champion in 1970 and 1973, had moved on to the Winston Cup series. As matter of fact, he'd won his first Cup race a month or so earlier in the Music City USA 420. In June, he returned to the fairgrounds with the plan to run in both races.

The Tennessean - June 21, 1975
The late Neil Bonnett raced a Bobby Allison-prepared 1972 Chevy Nova to the win in the 100-lap LMS race. The car was similar to this one (perhaps the same one) that Bonnett raced in the 1975 Falls City 200 at the fairgrounds earlier in the month.

Credit: Russ Thompson
Ohio driver and beer distributor, Woody Fisher, won the opening 100-lap ARCA feature. Coo Coo Marlin, a four-time Nashville late model champion, stepped away as did Waltrip from his regular gig as a Cup driver to race in the ARCA event. He laid down the quickest lap in qualifying in his Cunningham-Kelly Chevrolet - almost as if he might know how to get around the place!

Waltrip's night for the fans didn't go very well. He lost an engine in his borrowed car during qualifying for the ARCA race and missed the race. In the LMS race, he did what he could to pursue the bumper of Bonnett's car. But he experienced engine issues in that car as well, and he dropped out of the main feature.

Fisher has been featured in this blog previously - based on his piloting of a Petty Enterprises built Dodge Charger to a win in the 1977 ARCA 200 at Daytona.

Source: Chris Hussey
The Tennessean - June 22, 1975


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