When the 50th anniversary of Highland Rim Speedway was finally celebrated with the track's grand reopening on September 29, 2012, the grandstands were packed with fans, and the pit area was jammed with race cars. Race fans, as well as the track's new owners, businessmen Roger Cunningham, Jerry Criswell, and Buddy Williams, had been cautiously optimistic that the late launching of the 2012 season would be successful. Optimism stemmed from five months of hard work by the new owners and a bevy of volunteers who pitched in to help renovate the entire facility. Caution came because of the last owner's financial woes, as well as the track's reputation as a rough and tumble place where ignoring rules and fighting went hand-in-hand at almost every race.
In fact, at the extremely successful, standing room only reopening, most fans didn't realize the 50th anniversary of the Millersville, Tennessee, track came extremely close to not happening.
A pack of four Sportsman cars run together at Highland Rim Speedway, at track visited in t
Open Wheel Modifieds are found more often in the Northeast and upper Midwest, but the clas
Throughout its 50-year history, the Late Model division has been the marquee class at the
What fans did notice were renovated concession stands, restrooms, and grandstands. They noticed the updates to the sound system and could see the overall cleanliness of the entire facility.
"The renovations were something former promoters had been promising for years," driver Bobby Rippey said. "The new ownership group delivered the upgrades before the first ticket was sold. They showed their intentions right off the bat. That means a lot to the drivers and fans."
Lanny Adams, an announcer at the track for the past 17 years, who has seen what he describes as "the good, the bad, and the ugly" at the track, voiced his enthusiasm toward the new owners during the track's second event on October 6 of last year.
"I can truthfully say that the new owners have helped change the whole atmosphere here at The Rim this year," he said during a break in the racing action. "It is a true family atmosphere. Parents feel safe here with their children. In the past that hasn't always been the case. Now, people know that the new owners aren't going to put up with any rough stuff. That's one of the reasons we have had tremendous crowds at the first two races. People now feel safe about bringing their family to Highland Rim Speedway."
One of the key safety elements has been the addition of uniformed Millersville police officers. Officers Dustin Carr and Jeff Kerr, along with several other Millersville officers, patrol the grounds during the afternoon and evenings.
David Moyes (No. D-3) runs side-by-side with Chuck Davis (No. 36) during the Legends featu
One of the more unique looking divisions at the Rim is the Pro-4s. The expert class of the
The 2010 Pure Stock track champion, Tink Jackson muscles his way to the lead on the inside
"We have up to five officers here," Carr commented while keeping an eye on the large crowd, as well as catching a glimpse of action on the track. "We haven't had any incidents during the first two events and we don't expect to have any. The owners have asked us to come here, so we are working in conjunction with them. Although we certainly haven't had to use any force, we do have full arrest powers here and we will use them if necessary. I think the zero tolerance policy on alcohol, fighting and any rough stuff is appreciated by the fans and drivers. It certainly has changed from the way it was and we are glad of it. People can feel safe here with their children."
But a feeling of safety and a secure future for the track was in question as the 2011 season wound down. As the racing season sputtered to an end at Highland Rim, racers and race fans had good reason to eye the 2012 with a great deal of skepticism. The promoter of the track for the previous two seasons appeared to be in financial hot water. The actual owner of the track was in arrears on the bank note, as well as back taxes. The property was in disrepair. Drivers were angry with the promoter. Neighbors around the track were angry and demanded limiting racing dates and times. Even Millersville city officials seemed ready to bring the hammer down on the track after being at odds with the former promoter.
But before anyone could do anything, the auctioneer's gavel fell and the track was owned by the bank that held the note on the struggling facility.
Pictured left to right are the partners that brough the Rim back from the brink, Roger Cun
In February, the historic racetrack was auctioned to the highest bidder in a foreclosure sale. The highest bidder, in fact the only bidder, was the bank that held the note on the facility.
Several racers and wannabe promoters attended the auction but didn't raise a hand to bid on the property.
Whispers ran through the crowd that the track that had served as a proving ground for Bobby Hamilton Sr., Casey Atwood, and The Green brothers, hosted Bobby and Donnie Allison, Neil Bonnett, and Red Farmer, was destined to become a Wal-Mart warehouse facility. Would the whine of diesel truck engines and the whir of tow motors replace the roar of racing engines?
As the crowd left the auction on the cool February morning, Highland Rim Speedway's future looked bleak.