Thursday, May 31, 2018

Nashville's Falls City 200 - part 1

For many years, Falls City was a coming of age and working man's beer. The Nashville-area distributor leveraged the brand as a frequent sponsor at the track most refer to as Fairgrounds Speedway through much of the 1970s.

Drivers such as James Ham, Flookie Buford, Charlie Binkley, Bobby Isaac, Buddy Baker and ... Darrell Waltrip sported the red and gold colors of Falls City at the Fairgrounds.

Falls City also sponsored an annual, late model sportsman race at the Fairgrounds from 1972 through 1977. Except for the first one, the Falls City 200 was scheduled between late May and mid-June. This post will highlight the first three editions - all of which had a common denominator.

Falls City 100 - July 29, 1972

The first Falls City race was 100 vs. 200 laps and the only one on the track's 5/8 mile, high-banked configuration that lasted from 1970 through 1972. Run under Nashville's lights, the race was scheduled the same day Joe Leonard won the second annual Schaefer 500 at Pocono.

Waltrip, Nashville's 1970 late model sportsman champion, won the pole and dominated the race for the win. The victory was his sixth of the season.

On lap 45, James Ham passed Charlie Binkley to move into third place. Jerry Long ran second early in the race, but he blew an engine just past the halfway mark. When Long's night became short, Ham took over the second spot behind a disappearing Waltrip.

Something broke on Ham's car with about 15 laps to go. He sailed head-on into the wall between turns one and two and burst into flames. Ham stopped along the inside hall, and he quickly bailed out. A year later in Nashville's Uniroyal 100, Ham suffered a similar wreck - including another fire - but once again escaped relatively unscathed.

Binkley was following Ham and slid down along the inside wall in an effort to avoid him. He needed an assist to get back in the action, did so, and finished the race in second.

Waltrip was greeted in victory lane by flagman Don Donoho and Ellis Cook, Nashville's Falls City distributor.

Source: Nashville Fairgrounds Racing History
  1. Darrell Waltrip 
  2. Charlie Binkley
  3. Flookie Buford 
  4. Joe Mangrum 
  5. Ben Pruitt
  6. James Climer
  7. Windle Webster
  8. Jim Berry
  9. Jerry Sisco 
  10. James Ham 
  11. James Veach 
  12. Jerry Long
  13. Ray Chitwood
  14. Freddy Fryar
  15. Carl Layne
  16. Rod Stillings
  17. Everett Barnes 
  18. Bill Morton
  19. Jimmy Benson
  20. Ronnie Dickson
  21. Clyde Peoples
Falls City 200 - June 2, 1973

The third configuration of the Fairgrounds track (and the one still in place today) debuted in 1973. The banks were dropped to 18 degrees, and the official length of the track was reduced to .596-mile. Even though the track's length was no longer .625-mile, that didn't stop track management from boasting about the World's Finest 5/8 Mile Track. The same 5/8-mile reference continued to be used on programs through 1978.

Courtesy of Russ Thompson
Waltrip's crew brought two Chevelles to the track for the 1973 running of the Falls City 200. His plan was to race a newer car and have Walter Wallace pilot the older model.

After qualifying, Waltrip made a relatively last minute decision to swap cars. Wallace had qualified the older car fourth, but he exchanged seats with Waltrip. The decision turned out to be the right one.

Occasional Winston Cup racer Charlie Glotzbach came to town and won the pole in a Dodge. The car, owned by M.B. McMahan of Sevierville, TN, was already a two-time Fairgrounds winner in 1973. Cup regular Dave Marcis was at the wheel of McMahon's Mopar for two 30-lap features in the month of May.

McMahan wanted Marcis to race his car yet again - especially since Nashville had a $500 bonus for any Dodge that could win a national championship race. Practical logistics of shuttling Marcis between the Cup race at Dover and Nashville, however, could not be arranged. McMahan also considered Pete Hamilton and James Ham. Hamilton was already committed to a ride in a 200-lap LMS race at Middle Georgia Raceway near Macon, and Ham already had a ride in Nashville.

Glotzbach got word of McMahan's need for a driver while hanging out in Dover. His Cup owner, Hoss Ellington, opted not to race at Dover following a tough effort a week earlier in the World 600 at Charlotte. Glotzbach contacted McMahan and agreed to fly to Nashville in his own plane.

Waltrip needed only five laps to take the lead, and he set sail once he got it. Eight cautions during the race helped make things closer for Waltrip than he would have liked. With each restart, however, Waltrip again pulled away from the field.

L.D. Ottinger finished second with Freddy Fryar in third - the only other cars on the lead lap. Jimmy Hensley made a rare trip to Nashville and returned to Virginia with a P4.

Jack Ingram somehow managed a fifth place finish despite being involved in a multi-car accident a few laps after the halfway point of the race. Much of his Chevelle's sheet metal was mangled, but he soldiered on to a top 5 finish. His tenacity in the Falls City 200 and throughout the rest of the season helped reward him with NASCAR's 1973 national late model sportsman division championship.

Waltrip got the repeat win, and others scored some valuable points for the national title. Red Farmer, on the other hand, had a trip to Music City that he'd just as soon forget - and perhaps has. The truck hauling his race car broke down on I-65 as he drove from Birmingham. After arriving, practicing, and qualifying third, he developed an overheating problem early in the race. His crew addressed the issue during a pit stop, but their efforts didn't last. More engine woes put Farmer's car back on the sketchy truck after 82 laps.
  1. Darrell Waltrip
  2. L. D. Ottinger
  3. Freddy Fryar
  4. Jimmy Hensley
  5. Jack Ingram
  6. Jimmy Means
  7. Rod Stillings
  8. Jerry Lawley
  9. Robert Wales
  10. Charley Glotzbach
  11. Charley Binkley
  12. Don Smith
  13. Ronnie Blasingim
  14. Neil Bonnett 
  15. Walter Wallace
  16. Wayne Carden
  17. Alton Jones
  18. Donnle Anthony 
  19. Sammy Ard
  20. Windle Webster
  21. Steve Spencer
  22. Jerry Sisco
  23. Dorris Vaughn
  24. Gary Myers
  25. Red Farmer
  26. Charley Greenwell 
  27. Bill Morton 
  28. Flookie Buford
  29. James Ham
  30. Dan Lawson
  31. Terry Flynn
  32. Carl Lane
  33. Bobby Baucom
Falls City 200 - June 1, 1974

Waltrip returned in 1974 as the two-time defending race winner. He also returned as a two-time Fairgrounds track champion after having won the LMS title a second time in 1973. On top of his busy late model sportsman schedule, Waltrip had also launched his Winston Cup career.

The Falls City 200 lineup included a solid balance of local regulars and national hot shoes. Drivers such as James Ham, Flookie Buford, and Paddlefoot Wales got to race with Bobby Allison, Butch Lindley, and Jack Ingram.

A true out-of-towner who made the trek was Ray Hendrick. A winning, late model veteran of tracks in the eastern time zone, Hendrick had only raced at the Fairgrounds one time previously. He and Waltrip qualified on the front row for the track's 1974 season opener, the Permatex 200. The two raced hard and generally clean - until. The two came together, Waltrip sailed into the fence, Hendrick slid to the inside, carried on, and then raced Bobby Allison hard down the stretch.

Hendrick was back and ready to tangle with Waltrip, Allison, and others again about two months later. The Falls City 200 was Hendrick's second and final start in Nashville.

To the surprise of few, Waltrip won the pole and barely missed the track record in doing so. Hendrick lined up sixth but picked his way through traffic soon after the start. Within 15 laps or so, Hendrick found his way to second behind Waltrip.

The two stayed nose to tail through the first half of the race. Morgan Shepherd hounded Hendrick from third. He managed to take second but for only a lap before Hendrick roared back with a focused intent on tracking down Waltrip.

Allison, racing during an early June break in his Cup schedule, posted a poor qualifying lap and started 22nd. Once the green fell, however, he found his groove. He worked his way through traffic and tracked down Shepherd by halfway to take third.

As Allison eased into P3, a three-car accident slowed the field. Waltrip and Hendrick hit pit road with Hendrick getting the edge on pit exit. Both, however, were behind Allison who had made the decision to run the full race without pitting.

Waltrip needed only a couple of laps to pass Hendrick once the green returned. Allison did a yeoman's job of holding Waltrip and Hendrick at bay with their fresher tires. With about 50 laps to go, however, Allison's resistance was futile. Waltrip sailed around him - followed by Hendrick. Gremlins soon hit Allison, and the choice not to pit was moot. He cruised back to pit road and was done for the night.

With clean air, Waltrip put his Harpeth Motor Ford into the wind. He may have saved a bit from the early stages of the race, and he most likely remembered his previous Nashville encounter with Hendrick. Waltrip opened a comfortable margin and won his third consecutive Falls City race by about ten car lengths over the Virginian.
  1. Darrell Waltrip
  2. Ray Hendrick
  3. Jerry Lawley
  4. Richard Orton
  5. Bob Burcham 
  6. James Ham
  7. Ray Milligan
  8. Donnie Anthony
  9. Wayne Carden
  10. Dave Mader III
  11. Jim Berry
  12. Buck Hinkle
  13. Wayne Gower
  14. Dewayne Chaffin
  15. Jack Ingram
  16. Neil Bonnett
  17. Bobby Allison
  18. Phil Stillings
  19. Robert Wales
  20. Butch Lindley
  21. Clyde Peoples
  22. Bobby Hargrove
  23. James Climer
  24. Larry Catlett
  25. Jimmy Means
  26. Morgan Shepherd
  27. Flookie Buford
  28. Charlie Binkley
  29. Red Farmer
  30. Terry Miller
  31. Chet Williams
  32. Boscoe Lowe
  33. Walter Wallace 
Part 2 about 1975, 1976, and 1977 Falls City 200 races will follow next week...


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