When what is now Nashville’s historic Fairgrounds Speedway first opened more than 100 years ago, it was a dirt course for horses. By the late 1950s, automobiles and asphalt had taken over and reigned supreme for nearly six decades.
That will change Friday and Saturday night, when Brentwood resident Jason Rittenberry helps open the gates at the Fairgrounds for the Music City Outlaw Nationals, the first ever World of Outlaws Sprint Car event, on a quarter-mile track now covered in dirt.
Rittenberry’s Motorsports Strategy Group teamed up with Brewco Marketing Group to put together the only World of Outlaw event in Tennessee.
Just talking about it brings a big smile to the Clarksville native’s face.
“Of all the forms of motorsports I’ve promoted, dirt racing is my passion,” Rittenberry said. “It’s where my heart is.”
Considering Rittenberry has successfully promoted nearly every form of motorsports, from NASCAR to National Hot Rod Association events to Formula One, the X-Games and American Motorcycle Association flat track races, his involvement with bringing the World of Outlaw to town was a simple labor of love.
But the process wasn’t easy.
“It’s been a two-week process.” he said. “We had to bring in 181 dump-truck loads of dirt to cover the quarter mile. But the guys have done a great job, and the track is ready to go.”
It better be.
The sprint cars, which have huge wings and are known for tumbling over and over in many cases, are powerful and fast. The series bills itself with the well-earned moniker of “The Greatest Show on Dirt.”
“I think it is,” Rittenberry said. “I’m like most folks who grew up in Middle Tennessee. I’d never seen a sprint car until I moved to Memphis. And I fell in love with them. And WoO is the pinnacle of dirt-track racing within the winged-race-car sector. They look really cool with 24 of them four-wide at the start of the race.
“Side by side, inches apart, speeds up 100 mph and going into the corners sideways and they maintain control of these cars.”
The racing is expected to be intense, as the two-day event is the richest of the year for the sprint car drivers, with more than $150,000 up for grabs. Rittenberry says the reasons for bringing such an expensive endeavor to Middle Tennessee are simple.
“This is home!” he said with an even broader smile. “And Nashville is the ‘it city.’ Everybody wants to visit Nashville. Dirt racers and fans and sponsors are no different.”
Several NASCAR Cup drivers own sprint car teams, including Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., to name a few. Will they be following their teams to the Music City?
“I didn’t say that because I don’t know,” Rittenberry said. “But everybody wants to visit Nashville.”
Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday with opening ceremonies at 7. Events include a $15,000-to-the-winner WoO race and the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds. Saturday’s gate opens at 3 p.m. with racing, including a $25,000-to-winner WoO feature, starting at 7.
Nashville recording artist Tim Dugger will perform concerts at 4 p.m. both days.
Advance tickets, including tickets for reserved seats, are available online at WorldofOutlaws.com.