Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson took the checkered flag on Sunday, June 20, after leading 264 of the 300-lap Cup Series race. He won his third straight points-paying race and brought an end to a special weekend in Middle Tennessee. He then celebrated by attempting to do a burnout from one end of the grandstands to the other.
Heavy was on hand for all three days of NASCAR‘s return to Nashville Superspeedway after a decade away, covering the action and taking in the sights and sounds. The temperatures were in the low 90s the majority of the weekend, but fans still flocked to the 1.33-mile concrete oval outside of Lebanon to create a festive atmosphere under the sunny skies.
Over the course of three days, NASCAR fans celebrated the return to Nashville Superspeedway. They played games in the fan zone, met some of their favorite drivers during autograph sessions, and then they watched all three series compete at a track new to the majority of drivers.
Based on the comments from the attendees, the weekend was a success. The only complaints that Heavy heard during the three-day celebration revolved around the traffic jams in the area. Some fans sat in the lines of cars for over an hour trying to get to the track or head home after the races.
The Hometown Crowd Featured a Mix of Veterans and Newcomers
NASCAR has been striving to increase the size of the fanbase in recent years while reaching an entirely new audience. Partnering with NFL stars such as Bernard Pollard Jr. and Alvin Kamara is a part of the process, as is taking the top three series to different types of tracks.
If the crowd in Nashville is any indication, the efforts are starting to pay dividends. There were massive crowds of people in the grandstands from very different backgrounds. The veteran fans obviously showed up en masse, decked out in merchandise from their favorite drivers and teams. They knew all of the rules, as well as how to sneak Subway into the grandstands.
Other attendees had far less knowledge about the weekend’s races. There were large groups of people in the stands that were new to the sport of stock car racing. These attendees told Heavy that they had never been to a race before and that they didn’t know much about NASCAR other than that Bubba Wallace was one of the drivers. Some had received free tickets from local colleges, prompting them to check out a new pastime.
The veteran fans heard these comments from their fellow attendees, but they did not shun the newcomers. They actually embraced the opportunity to provide critical information. One old-timer, in particular, spent much of Stage 2 of the Tennessee Lottery 250 detailing why there are stage breaks and how the top-10 drivers can score crucial points throughout the races. He delighted in sharing his wealth of information with an entirely new audience.
Once the races came to an end, the new fans had far more knowledge about NASCAR and its biggest drivers. They didn’t quite make friends with the veterans, but they found a new comfort level that will aid them during future races and provide them with the opportunity to chat about Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, and the other Cup Series drivers.
Kyle Busch Continued to Split the Crowd During the Nashville Races
The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry, Busch splits the NASCAR fanbase like no other driver. He has a massive group of supporters, known as Rowdy Nation. He also has an equal number of critics, who make their opinions known by booing him during pre-race introductions and throughout the race.
Both sides of the fanbase showed up in full force for the Tennessee Lottery 250 Xfinity Series race on Saturday, June 19, as well as the Ally 400 Cup Series race the following day as the veteran driver pulled double-duty. The Busch supporters arrived in a variety of merchandise that prominently featured his sponsors.
One fan wore a bright yellow M&M’s firesuit and hat, matching the driver’s outfit of the day. Two young Busch fans wore bright red t-shirts and showcased their excitement by jumping up and down every time the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra passed the start-finish line. One fan wearing Marvin the Martian socks celebrated big moments during the race by standing up and pointing to the right as Busch completed laps around the concrete oval.
The critics, on the other hand, arrived at the track in merchandise representing other drivers. A father-son duo in section 133 had on matching Chase Elliott shirts while another family exclusively supported Noah Gragson. They celebrated different drivers with their clothing choices, but these fans united while booing Busch.
This portion of the crowd had very different reactions to the big moments featuring Busch. They cheered loudly during the Xfinity Series race when Justin Allgaier passed him late in the race, and then they booed when Busch recaptured the top spot. Others shouted obscenities through the fence after Busch did his signature bow with the checkered flag in hand.
The track announcers saw the split in the fanbase and took full advantage. They asked several questions throughout the race, the majority of which focused on Busch. The announcers asked the fans to weigh in and reveal whether they wanted the driver to reach his 100th Xfinity Series win, prompting a wave of boos and cheers from the grandstands.
The Ally 400 Featured Some Big Names as Guests
The Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series races both featured some wild moments on the track, much to the delight of the fans in attendance. However, they only served as the appetizer for the main course. The Ally 400 on Sunday, June 20, was the race where NASCAR and the Nashville Superspeedway track officials went all out.
There were several special guests in attendance for the Cup Series race with some working and others just taking in the show. There were VIPs representing some of the biggest sponsors, soldiers from Fort Campbell, and some famous musical performers from the area. Eagle-eyed guests walking around the garage area could spot Big and Rich, Vince Neil of Motley Crue fame, Chris Janson, and multiple others as they headed to the various haulers.
Some of these guests had specific duties to perform. Janson put on a show for the fans while singing some of his biggest hits. Luke Combs served as the grand marshal and yelled the most famous words in motorsports. Brad Paisley sat atop the Peacock pit box while helping Dale Earnhardt Jr. host the pre-race show.
Once the festivities began, these special guests headed to their suites to take in the 300-lap Cup Series race. They watched as several of the star drivers dealt with brake issues and slammed into the outside wall, sending their stock cars to the garage early.
Larson ultimately captured the win and became the first Cup driver to win at Nashville Superspeedway. Ross Chastain finished second while William Byron captured third. Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five.