On June 7 of this year I observed the 50th anniversary of attending my very first auto race, which took place at the Danbury (Connecticut) Racearena. Deciding to add to the present total of 346 different tracks attended during that 50-year span, I made my way through the picturesque Appalachian and Great Smoky Mountain ranges to visit the high-banked 4/10-mile pavement track in Newport, Tennessee, the Newport Speedway.
The first item of note was the beautiful and huge Newport Speedway sign, complete with crossed checkered flags. I shoot pictures and video of each track I visit, and the track logo shots are favorite images.
I met several interesting people at Newport, including Randy Bethea. He is a jack of all trades and assists wherever he is needed at the track. I recognized Mr. Bethea as a member of the Black American Racers organization that was formed in the early 1970s by Leonard W. Miller, a black racer and businessman whose intention was to attract corporate sponsorships to aid black racers in their quest to make the big-time circles of auto racing. Mr. Bethea had won a stock car championship in Tennessee, and raced for BAR in professional road race events driving Formula Super Vee cars until he was seriously injured at Road Atlanta in 1974 and was forced to give up his ride and the chance to enter racing's major leagues.
Bethea never lost his love for driving racecars, and after talking to Jack Ingram, a former NASCAR national champion who is back in the sport, Mr. Bethea has started racing a Late Model at Newport. And judging from that bright sparkle in his eyes, it's obvious he's very happy about strapping a helmet on again. The on-track action was very competitive at Newport, with fast, multi-groove action. The visiting Super Cup Series brought a field full of Late Models and six different drivers led laps in the 100-lap contest, as only green flag laps counted.
The regular Limited Late Model racers put on a great run as four drivers led laps during the 50-lap event, and 10 straight laps of side-by-side racing for the lead was alone worth the price of admission.
The five remaining divisions all heightened the excitement of the large crowd, and I plan to make a return trip to Newport Speedway.