News and Events

Robert Pressley Faces New Challenge

 

During his career Robert Pressley conquered tracks like Darlington, Daytona, Dover, and Michigan. In 2011, Pressley will attempt to conquer a new track. However, this time, it will not be from behind the wheel.

Pressley has leased Kingsport Speedway in Kingsport, Tennessee. The 3/8 mile concrete oval has not hosted weekly racing since the 2002 season. This means that Robert Pressley will start from scratch to build car counts and gain fans at Kingsport Speedway as he reintroduces racing on a weekly basis to the Kingsport area.

Pressley, who has spent the last few years helping his son Coleman at the local level, feels that he has several ideas to help take local racing back to where it was when he was competing on short tracks in the 70’s and 80’s. Pressley hopes to put these ideas to use to please fans and drivers with exciting NASCAR Whelen All American Series action.

“Racing is all I have ever known,” says Pressley, who comes from a racing family. “I started my career at the local level and worked my way up to the top three divisions of NASCAR. After several opportunities passed me by to purchase a race track, I thought Kingsport Speedway was a golden opportunity since it had been closed for eight years.”

One thing Pressley understands is what it is like to have a void in the community from a closed race track. His hometown speedway in Asheville closed in 1999 while he was competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The rigors of his schedule at that time kept him occupied, preventing him from realizing the impact the speedway made on the citizens of Asheville. He hopes that by re-opening Kingsport, the void left in that town will be filled with the sound of roaring engines.

Kingsport Speedway has a storied history with drivers such as Jimmy Hensley, Jack Ingram, L.D. Ottinger, and Scott Bloomquist winning track championships on the dirt surface during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Jeff Agnew, Keith Stiltner, and Wade Day among others went on to win titles on the concrete surface during the 1990’s.

With Kingsport Speedway having such a rich past, Pressley has plans to preserve the history and recognize the former champions of the speedway. “We are going to recognize all of the past champions by having them come to races throughout the year,” states Pressley. “We are also going to put up a wall of fame so the champions of Kingsport Speedway will not be forgotten.”

As far as the racing at Kingsport this season, look for the weekly classes to be the primary focus with only one touring event currently on the schedule. The UARA Stars will visit Kingsport Speedway on Saturday April 9th. UARA hosted two events at Kingsport in 2010 and one in 2009. These were the only three races held at Kingsport in the last eight years.

Pressley feels that limiting the number of touring series races will be vital to earning the respect of local drivers and fans. “We are concentrating solely on the Tri-cities and surrounding areas so we can show the folks what local short track racing is all about,” explains Pressley. “With Bristol being only 15 miles away fans will still have the opportunity to see the three main NASCAR Touring Series.”

The primary classes at Kingsport Speedway for 2011 will be late models, street stocks, and pure four. Legends, open wheel modifieds, renegades, chargers, and others will also compete on a rotating basis throughout the season. Races will primarily be held on Friday nights with the exception of opening night on Saturday March 12th and the UARA event on Saturday April 9th.

“I want each division to have its own identity,” says Pressley in regards to selecting his classes of competition for 2011. “Many of the tracks I have visited in the last five years have so many classes it is hard to identify what class is running until the race begins.”

Although this will be Pressley’s first attempt at running a race track, it will not be his first venture as a business owner. Pressley opened Celebrity’s Hot Dogs in 2005 and has since added two more locations. The fourth location will be opening later this year.

When asked if anything can be carried over from a successful hot dog stand to successfully running a race track, Pressley says, “You have to surround yourself with good people, put on a good show, and make everything affordable so you have repeat fans.”

Hopefully, race fans and drivers in the Tri-cities area of East Tennessee will enjoy the show that Robert Pressley and his staff put on, and will fill the stands and pits to keep Kingsport Speedway alive and well, so that racing does not leave the area again.

Devon Holder is a feature writer for SpeedWeekly magazine and SpeedWeekly.net

Pressley Continues Kingsport Renaissance

Historic Tennessee track to be part of All-American Series By Paul Schaefer, NASCAR
December 1, 2010 - 12:59pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR and Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway announced today that the .375-mile banked concrete oval will be part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series beginning in 2011.

Robert Pressley, an Asheville, N.C. native and two-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series regional champion in his driving days, is the new promoter at Kingsport.  The historic track has operated only sporadically hosting special events since 2002. 

“We’re glad to be part of the renaissance Robert is leading at Kingsport,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR managing director of racing operations. “Robert has experienced the benefits of racing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series first-hand. The foundation for his success as a driver in NASCAR’s three national series began in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.”

Pressley used his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series success as a springboard to the NASCAR national series, where he won twice in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and 10 times in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He also made 205 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts.

Pressley has signed a five year lease on the track, and has formulated his plans.

“Promoting Kingsport Speedway is something I really want to do,” Pressley said. “They’ve had just a few special events here in recent years and had 100 cars and 3,000 fans. The fans here want Kingsport Speedway to open, and they want to support it. Kingsport is the place we need to be and everyone’s excited about it.

“I’ve raced with NASCAR my whole life, so we wanted Kingsport to be part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The response has been huge. So far, 57 Late Models registered to compete with us in 2011. We’ll be open on Friday nights and Late Models will be our top division. We’ll also have Street Stocks and four cylinder cars every week, with some specials for Legends and Chargers.

“Our fan base is within a 30-mile radius of Kingsport. We want to entertain them with great racing and send them home happy by 10:30 p.m. We want them to carry that buzz with them to the water-cooler at work on Mondays.”

Pressley won NASCAR Whelen All-American Series regional championships under a different series formats in 1987 and 1988 racing at his home track, Asheville (N.C.) Motor Speedway. He won four consecutive track championships there from 1984-87. His dad, Bob, was a legend at the track with seven titles and the 1989 NASCAR regional championship. Pressley’s brother, Mike, won two Asheville championships. The round .333 mile paved track opened in 1960 and closed in 1999.

Kingsport Speedway has a deep NASCAR history as well.

It hosted three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races between 1969 and 1971. Richard Petty won twice and Bobby Isaac won the final series race there.

The track was a frequent stop for the old NASCAR Sportsman Series, which was the foundation for today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series.

The track also grew with the times. It opened as a .337 mile paved oval in 1965, and operated in that configuration through 1983. When dirt Late Model racing became the trend, the track was converted to a .375 clay oval in 1984 and remained that way through 1995. The surface was changed to concrete and the track joined the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for the first time in 1996.

NASCAR track champions included Jeff Agnew (1996-97, Keith Stiltner, 1998-99, Wade Day, who also won the series’ Blue Ridge Region championship in 2000, and Jeff Berry in 2001.

Pressley is planning a special night to salute all the past Kingsport Late Model champions. He also noted that Stiltner and Day are planning to return to weekly NASCAR Late Model racing there.

NASCAR-licensed drivers in the track-designated Division I compete for track, U.S. state and Canadian provincial championships and point fund awards, as well as the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship. Series sponsor Whelen Engineering provides customized championship driver helmets for track champions and a championship racing uniform for state champions. In addition, NASCAR introduced the “Finalist Program” in 2010 to honor the track’s Division II-V competitors.

All NASCAR-licensed drivers competing in NASCAR-sanctioned divisions at sanctioned tracks are also eligible for NASCAR Participant Accident Insurance Coverage.

The eligibility for a NASCAR Learner’s Permit is 14 years of age. This allows drivers and crew members the opportunity to compete in entry-level divisions as designated by the track.

The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is the grassroots, foundation of NASCAR and consists of more than 50 short tracks across North America. Since its inception, NASCAR Home Tracks have served as a springboard in the careers of many NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, and Jamie McMurray are among the drivers who began their careers racing in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

More information on the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is available at www.NASCARHomeTracks.com

Taking down the scoreboard.

Photos by Nate Monteith

Willie Gibson doing some pressure washing.
Looking good.
Getting some clean up work on the track.