When the NASCAR Cup Series races at Nashville Superspeedway for the very first time this Sunday, they will be writing the first chapter in the Cup Series' history at the 1.3 mile concrete oval just outside of Music City. However, Nashville Superspeedway is not quite a blank slate, as it has a decade's worth of NASCAR history preceding it.
From 2001 until 2011, Nashville Superspeedway served as an annual stop for both what is now the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and played host to several memorable races in that time frame. Nashville Superspeedway was a track very much enjoyed by first-time winners, as eight drivers -- including 2012 Cup Champion Brad Keselowski -- won for the very first time in NASCAR at the track. And those victories were complimented by other dramatic moments that Sunday's Ally 400 promises to add to.
Here is a look at the Top 5 moments in NASCAR's history at Nashville Superspeedway.
Honorable Mention: Joe Nemechek Keeps Rolling
As any racer who sticks around long enough finds out, not every one of their highlights is of a great moment or achievement in their careers. Longtime NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek had many days that were much better than his day at Nashville in 2009, but he still managed to leave the speedway with some style points and a story still told today.
With nine laps to go in the 2009 Nashville 300, a multi-car crash was triggered when a young Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – making his NASCAR debut – spun on the frontstraightaway. Stenhouse's car hit the right rear quarter panel of Joe Nemechek's, flipping it over and sending it sliding upside down before it turned back onto its wheels.
With his car pointed in the right direction, Nemechek stayed in the gas and kept driving his car, to the delight of onlookers and fellow crews. However, NASCAR did not allow Nemechek to finish the race due to safety concerns over the damage to his roof. He was relegated to a 34th place finish in a race won by a young Joey Logano.
No. 5: Hitting Home for Hamilton
Beyond an accomplished career of racing across NASCAR's top levels, Nashville's own Bobby Hamilton lived the sort of life that many a country song has profiled: Hamilton grew up in a family fractured by alcoholism, and he spent time homeless on the streets of East Nashville and working simply to survive before breaking into NASCAR in the late 1980s. Hamilton won four races in the NASCAR Cup Series, but one of his greatest accomplishments came in the then-NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Nashville in 2004.
Not far from his native Mt. Juliet, Hamilton took the lead from David Starr with eight laps to go – despite major problems with his team's communications system -- to win the Toyota Tundra 200 at his home track, taking home a race in which the Hamilton family led 106 of 150 laps. Hamilton's son, Bobby Jr., had led a race-high 89 before finishing fourth.
"He drove a heck of a race today, and I seen the truck go away. So I knew it was up to me then," Hamilton said in Victory Lane. "But it was just a good thing to have me and him both here."
Hamilton's triumph at Nashville was one of four wins in 2004 en route to his lone Truck Series Championship, and he would continue to race in Trucks until cancer forced him to step out of the driver's seat in 2006 (Sadly, Hamilton died in January of 2007). Hamilton was a lifelong resident of the Nashville area and is widely regarded as one of the area's greatest racers.
No. 4: Green for Glory
Racing action doesn't get much better than a last lap pass for the win, which is exactly what happened in the spring of 2003 when a former champion of the then-NASCAR Busch Series got the best of a young and rising star.
In the closing laps of the Pepsi 300, the handling on former Busch Series Champion David Green's car began to come in, allowing him to make a charge from fourth with four laps to go to second at the white flag. Green made his way to the inside of Johnny Sauter on the final lap, clearing him in Turns 3 & 4 to score the victory and snap a winless streak dating back to 1996.
Green would go on to win three races in 2003 in what was a renaissance season for the 1994 Busch Series Champion. Green would go on to finish a close second in the final points standings, missing out on his second championship by just 14 points.
No. 3: The Bump & Run and Johnny Benson
For many years, "Tough Trucks, Tough Racin'" was the mantra by which NASCAR's Truck Series prided itself on. And a particularly tough and rumble moment came at Nashville in 2006, with some of the series' top drivers of the time putting on a dramatic finish.
In a green-white-checkered finish to the Toyota Tundra 200, Todd Bodine put the bump and run on Mike Skinner with two laps to go before Skinner repaid the favor on the final lap. As both Bodine and Skinner slid up the track and into the wall, Johnny Benson was able to motor past to steal the win as the two occupied themselves with each other (at the expense of a laptop on pit road smashed by Skinner's wife.)
"When I saw those guys going down the frontstretch trying to go down on the apron, I said 'All I gotta do is hit my corner perfect and I'll be okay,' because I knew that contact was probably gonna be made," Benson said. "… With a little bit of luck, we ended up right here."
The race ended up having implications for the outcome of the Truck Series Championship, as Bodine and Benson would eventually duke it out for the series title amongst themselves. Bodine would go on to beat Benson in a title fight that went down to the final race, scoring his first of two Truck Series Championships.
No. 2: Kyle Busch's Guitar Smash
From an action standpoint, the Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville in June of 2009 wasn't much to write home about. It was a romp by Kyle Busch, who led 173 of 225 laps in a total beatdown. However, the big moment of the night would occur in Victory Lane when Busch pulled a spectacular stunt that added enormously to his rising "villain" status.
After receiving the winner's trophy in Victory Lane – a Gibson Guitar specially painted by longtime NASCAR designer Sam Bass – Busch made a rockstar move and smashed the guitar to pieces.
There were quite a few who were appalled and offended by the stunt, and still consider it scandalous even to this day. But there had been a method to Busch's madness, even if it continued to affirm his place as stock car racing's ultimate heel: Each member of his team received a piece of the guitar.
"The guys that were all on my team got a piece; I got a piece," Busch recently told The Tennesseean. "There's still that in the trophy case."
The victory was one of nine that Busch won in what was then the NASCAR Nationwide Series that season en route to the series title.
No. 1: Top 4 crash racing for the win
The most spectacular moment in the history of Nashville Superspeedway, by far, came during the Pepsi 300 in April of 2004. In the final laps, a young Kyle Busch and a young Clint Bowyer were both seeking their first career wins, with veterans Johnny Benson and Robby Gordon right behind them in a four-car fight to the finish. After Busch cleared Bowyer with two laps to go, contact from Bowyer sent Busch spinning off of Turn 2, with all four cars being collected in the ensuing crash. Michael Waltrip, who had been running sixth, motored through the mess to earn an extremely improbable victory, his 11th and final in Busch Series competition.
"I knew the only chance I had was to try and go to the wall and hope they all got in the wreck. When it came out the other end and I didn't see anybody in front of me, I said 'Well, that worked out like it was supposed to,'" Waltrip said in Victory Lane.
While the accident between them was never forgotten – Busch joked he still needed to pay Bowyer back during 2019 Champion's Week in Nashville – both were able to eventually visit Victory Lane for the first time. Busch earned his first career win at Richmond a month later, while Bowyer's maiden victory would come at Nashville in June of 2005.