The Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky racing scene was certainly in turmoil. A bank owned Highland Rim. Beech Bend in Kentucky had closed its oval track, and even though the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway had been given another one year reprieve from the bulldozer, only six event dates were scheduled for the season.

But while things outwardly looked glum, behind the scenes several groups were trying to figure out ways to keep Highland Rim Speedway from becoming a warehouse depot. In early April, several members from two of the groups combined forces and formed a partnership tentatively named Save Highland Rim Speedway.

In true racer fashion, the partnership, consisting of Cunningham, Criswell, and Williams, went to the head of the pack in an attempt to buy the property from the bank.

"We initially thought that once we secured the funds to buy the track all we had to do was close the deal and we could begin making some renovations, set an opening date, and go racing," Williams said. "Well, it wasn't that easy. We found out that the SBA had a huge lien on equipment at the facility. That had to be addressed. We also had to clear up a problem with part of the property that had supposedly been sold by a previous owner. But, we overcame all of that and actually closed on the property in early May."

After setting an early July opening date, the partners began renovating the 50-year-old facility.

"That's when the real work began," Cunningham said, shaking his head as he remembered the partners taking a closer look at what needed to be done to the facility.

"It was a little of this and that and it all turned into a lot more work and money than we planned for initially. But, in the end, after moving our opening date several times, we are glad that we waited and made Highland Rim Speedway a first-class facility."

Drivers and fans couldn't agree more.

Steve Cavanah and his wife, Beverly are long time fans of Highland Rim Speedway. Cavanah has also been a driver and still owns race cars, so he has a unique prospective.

"The new owners are doing a great job," Cavanah said while watching the racing action from the stands with his wife. "Just take a look at the whole facility. Everything has been upgraded and renovated. These guys have gotten the whole community involved. They are out promoting this track all the time. Instead of being adversaries with local officials, they have become partners in the community. They work with everyone instead of against everyone. I'm looking forward to what they do next. I know it'll be something that will be beneficial to everyone involved. They are thinking of everyone, not just themselves."

Ricky Sanford, who has been racing at Highland Rim for over 30 years, said he likes the way things are now being handled at the track.

"I think Jerry (Criswell) and this bunch are going to do really well," Sanford said. "I like the way they are enforcing the rules and the way they have fixed up the facilities. Even the restrooms have been rebuilt."

Sanford compared the present ownership group with two other successful Highland Rim owners, Neil Chaffin and Ronnie Baucom.

"I think both Neil and Ronnie did a good job, but I think this present group can do even better," he said. "It's 100 percent better now than it has been in the last several years. In fact, I only live 10 minutes from here and I'd stopped coming."

Other drivers echoed Sanford's sentiments.

Former track champion at Highland Rim and Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, Tommy Climer also commented on the changed atmosphere.

"It's totally different," he said. "Now, you know you're going to go through tech several times, so if someone gets disqualified, then that's just the way it is. I race in both the Sportsman and Late Model divisions here at The Rim, and I have a lot of fun. My dad, James, has won a lot of races here, and still owns a car that Jeff Higdon drives in the Late Model division, so I have a little added incentive to do well. I can't say enough about how glad I am that Buddy, Roger, and Jerry stepped up and is proving that short-track racing can be successful if you do it right. You have to respect the drivers and the fans. Give the drivers a level playing field, the fans a safe environment and reasonable costs, and you'll be successful."

Criswell said the partners have a five-year plan that includes upgrades to the track and facilities each year.

"Since we actually own the track we can afford to put our profit, assuming there is one, back into the track," he said. "This is a long term investment. We want a good safe environment for drivers, fans, and their families. We have an opportunity to do it the right way and with the help of the Lord, we will.