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Hamilton Jr. Buys Hometown Track

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 4 2009
Bobby Hamilton Jr. has become a race-track owner. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Bobby Hamilton Jr. has become a race-track owner. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Bobby Hamilton Jr. has bought Highland Rim Speedway, a quarter-mile asphalt track located in Ridgetop, Tenn., 20 miles north of Nashville, and said the purchase is partly from the heart and partly from the head.

“It’s a little bit sentimental in addition to being a business move,” he said of his decision to acquire the 46-year-old track.

“The first race I ever saw was at Highland Rim, where my dad started racing,” said Hamilton, 31, whose late father got his start at the little track and went on to NASCAR stardom.

“That track has always meant a lot to our family. In fact a few years ago my dad and I thought about buying it but the timing wasn’t right.”

One of the main factors that made Hamilton decide that the timing is better now is the closure of historical Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville. This was the track’s final season according to the mayor, who plans to develop the property.

Earlier in the week former Fairgrounds drivers Darrell Waltrip and Sterling Marlin met with city representatives to plead for the track to remain open, but apparently to no avail.

The closure of Fairgrounds Speedway will leave hundreds of area drivers and thousands of race fans with no place to go.

“There’s no question that the drivers and the fans are out there,” Hamilton said. “It’s up to us to give them a good track to race on, in a family-friendly environment. I believe I can make it work.”

Highland Rim, which opened in 1964, has hosted such notable drivers as Waltrip, Bobby and Donnie Allison, and Red Farmer, and helped launch the careers of both Hamiltons, Jeremy Mayfield, Chad Chaffin, Jeff Green and Casey Atwood all of whom went on to race in NASCAR.

But despite its rich racing history the track has passed through a series of owners and has had a troubled past. A woman driver died in a crash a few years ago, a track official was severely injured, and fights in the pits and grandstands marred the track’s image. Hamilton vowed to change that.

“My wife and daughter wouldn’t go to the Rim because of some of the stuff that went on,” he said. “That’s going to stop with Day One. I don’t care how many security officers it takes. Anybody – driver, fan, car owner – who starts trouble will be gone for good.”

Hamilton lives in nearby Greenbrier where Bobby Hamilton Racing is located. “You can almost the racetrack from my house,” he said.

He also owns a restaurant in Springfield, another nearby town.

“These folks are my friends and neighbors,” he said. “That’s a big advantage to any business.”

Hamilton, who has five wins in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and competed for one season in the Cup Series, is co-owner of Rensi Hamilton Racing. He said he hopes to race in 2010 but if not, “Then I’ll concentrate on running my racetrack.”

Hamilton plans to open the season in mid-March and in the meantime will schedule organizational meetings with drivers and team owners. Information will be posted on the track’s website, highlandrimspeedway.com.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 4 2009
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