Race Weekend Central

Potts’s Shots: The Original Kentucky NASCAR Race & the End of an Era in Indy

Jack Brothers wants to know…

Wasn’t there a NASCAR race in Kentucky some years back? Any details?

Interestingly enough, Jack, there was. I don’t think you’re referring to what was then the Busch Series racing at Louisville Motor Speedway. That’s because NASCAR’s top line series HAS indeed run in Kentucky before, almost 57 years ago. It was then the Grand National Series and the race was at Corbin Speedway, where I now try to help keep the place going.

It was the weekend before Darlington and Corbin was then a half-mile dirt track. Now, it’s a paved quarter-mile. Dick Rathman took the pole and the winner was Lee Petty, on his way to his first NASCAR championship. Petty took the lead from Herschel McGriff late in the race to win the 200-lap event.

Funny thing, I’ve been trying to get our pre-race publicity and results in the Louisville and Lexington papers since I moved to southeastern Kentucky in 2002. No help at all. Same deal with TV.

Now the Sprint Cup Series shows up at Sparta, and for the last week and a half, myself and a bunch of old-timers around here have been besieged by requests for information from the papers in both cities. I even did an interview with the Lexington CBS affiliate this week.

Ain’t it amazin’, Gracie?

The older guys I’ve talked to seem to think Bub King of Corbin had a lot to do with bringing that race to this area. Bub ran with NASCAR in the southeast, including on the beach/road course at Daytona. Back in those days, as Greg Fielden has recorded in his books, NASCAR would run just about anywhere. I suspect Bub said, “Mr. France, we’ve got this half-mile up in my neighborhood and we’re not running the week before Darlington, so how about…”

At any rate, it was the biggest thing to happen around this area for a while, they tell me. Enjoy it, Kentucky Speedway – but Corbin did it first, even if NASCAR wasn’t such a big deal back in those days.

Wish I could say I was there, but I was at band camp that weekend. I was entering my sophomore year in high school.

Bill Bradford asks…

What’s your take on NASCAR moving the Nationwide Series race from Lucas Oil Raceway to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

You don’t need to ask that question, Bill. I’m sure you know I think it stinks. Sure, they can get a bigger sanction fee out of IMS and pay a bigger purse, but they’re not going to put on a better race. Twice that Lucas Oil race has been chosen by the media as the series’ best of the season.

The smaller track holds 30,000-plus for that event and I’ll predict they might get 50,000 at the Speedway. Fifty thousand there will make that place look empty.

I was told while I was at what was then Indianapolis Raceway Park that NASCAR pressured Tony George several times to move that race to IMS, but resisted because he considered IRP to be a neighbor. He was even quoted in The Indianapolis Star as saying, “We’ve got a good relationship and we wouldn’t want to do anything to get crosswise with IRP.”

When Bob Daniels brought the Busch Series to Indianapolis in 1982, people said NASCAR wouldn’t sell in the Midwest. With a lot of work, he and his team proved them wrong.

I’ve said it before in this space, but I really believe it and I’ll say it again. I don’t think the Brickyard 400 would have come about in 1994 if we hadn’t proven over that 12-year period that it would work.

NASCAR hopes to give Lucas Oil Raceway a “standalone” date. If they do, I wish them all kinds of luck with it.

But an era ends.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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