All American 400 continues to bring Fairgrounds Speedway to life

By Anthony Fiorella, Studio M staff //

Sixty years of history have come and gone through the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.

For 32 of them, the All American 400 race that takes place each October has given Nashville a glimpse at some of NASCAR’s best drivers ever.

Out of the 32 seasons that the Southern Super Series’ super late models (cars that are two models old are considered “super late models”) have circled the track, the race has also seen some of motorsports’ brightest young talents such as Georgia native Casey Roderick.

Roderick, who finished in the top 10 in this year’s race, knows just how much history the 400 has.

“It’s definitely exciting to come to a race like this,” Roderick said. “There’s a lot of history over the years, and I’d be really happy to add my name to the list of people that have won the 400.”

He added, “Just being in the race and being in attendance is special. It’d definitely be cool to put my name among the rest of them that (raced) here before me.”

Those that came before Roderick include NASCAR Hall of Famers such as Franklin, Tennessee’s Darrell Waltrip (1987) and Rusty Wallace (1985) in victory lane.

Three of the last five winners of the race are currently running in some of NASCAR’s top series.

2013 winner Chase Elliott currently drives for Hendrick Motorsports in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup Series.

Over the next two races, Camping World Truck Series regular John Hunter Nemechek (2014) and Xfinity Series driver Daniel Hemric (2015) took the checkered flag.

Each year, many of the Fairgrounds Speedway regulars circle this race on the calendar as the granddaddy of them all.

Gus Lewis has made the trip from Xenia, Ohio, to the Fairgrounds to watch the 400 since the 1970s.

“I like (the Fairgrounds Speedway),” Lewis said.  “The people are really nice down here.  Nashville’s a great place to visit.  It’s a great atmosphere.”

Lou McMurray, who hails from Michigan, has been coming to watch the 400 for 15 years.

“I think the pricing is pretty reasonable,” McMurray said. “If you think of all the other forms of entertainment that you can go to, (the prices) aren’t like a baseball game or football game. It’s good family entertainment.”

Aside from being a fan, he helps other fans with their experience at the 400 by providing a scanner frequency service through Great Lakes Racing Frequencies, a company he helped start.

“We started a long time ago on a local track with a friend of mine before the age of computers,” McMurray said.  “I decided to pick it up and computerize it and it’s taken off from there.”

The format of the race provides fans with excitement, too: Drivers are allowed just six tires for the whole race, forcing them to make tough decisions on when to put on a fresh set or just take two. The 400 lap race also features controlled cautions, allowing drivers to pit under a yellow flag without losing position to other drivers who come down pit road.

“Last year we had eight tires in the pits, this year we have six,” Casey Roderick said.  “There’s going to be a set of tires you’re going to have to run a long time on and you’ll have to decide when to take four tires and when to take two.”

With NASCAR’s return to the Fairgrounds being so uncertain, the historic All American 400 is likely going to be the race that will continue to be the heartbeat of the Fairgrounds Speedway.

“(The 400) is the benchmark of (the Fairgrounds) season,” Lou McMurray said.  “It’s always a special weekend. They’ve had some down years, but it’s getting there.  It’s slow, but it’s coming back.”

Anthony Fiorella is a junior studying journalism at Middle Tennessee State University.

Studio M, a project of the College of Media and Entertainment at MTSU, allows student journalists to be published statewide and nationwide. It’s made possible through grants and donations from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Tennessean and BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

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