Big Rig race to be Highland Rim’s ‘biggest ever’

Larry Woody • Jun 27, 2017 at 9:56 PM

Highland Rim Speedway has been running races for more than half a century, but “there’s never been anything” like the one set for Saturday, July 1.

That’s according to Mt. Juliet’s Roger Cunningham, co-owner of the track, as he describes the upcoming Bandit Big Rig Series race and its field of smoke-belching, pant-swapping gear-jammers.

“One of the truck racers ran some exhibition laps at the track awhile back, and it was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen,” says Cunningham, who operates the historic little Ridgetop racetrack with partner Jerry Criswell.

“He took off and went into the first turn dirt-track sideways. I thought he was fixing to tear my wall down. But he got it straightened up and kept going. What was my reaction to what I saw? The only thing that’s printable is ‘Oh my gosh!’”

Cunningham’s daughter Kelli Lawson, a Mt. Juliet resident who assists with the track’s promotions, had a particularly good view of the action. She was sitting in the big rig’s passenger seat.

“When I climbed out my knees were knocking,” Lawson says with a laugh.

“When I agreed to the ride, the driver said we’d just run a few parade laps. If those were ‘parade laps’ I’d hate to be in the truck when it’s going full-speed. If felt like we were going through the turns on two wheels.”

When the ride was over, veteran stock car driver James “King” Climer came over and paid Lawson a compliment.

“He told me it took a lot of guts,” Lawson says. “Coming from King Climer, that’s quite a statement.”

After the exhibition, Cunningham says he “immediately took out more insurance in case they tear down the walls.”

Criswell agrees with his partner that the race could be the biggest spectacle in the track’s long, colorful history.

“We are expecting 15 to 18 big rigs on the quarter-mile track, and it’s going to be a great show,’ he says. “With all the trucking industry around Nashville it will generate tremendous interest.”

Saturday’s race is the 7th on a 13-race schedule for the national Big Rig Series. The Series has been around for years, racing at venues across the country and attracting big crowds at every stop. The races have also drawn national TV coverage with their unique brand of racing.

“Kids absolutely love these races,” Criswell says. “And so do the adults. They’re pure entertainment and excitement.”

Highland Rim fans will have an area driver to root for – Mike Morgan of Wartrace who works for Nashville’s Mack Trucks. Morgan is a former Big Rig champ and is coming off a $10,000 victory at Greenville Pickens Speedway in South Carolina.

“Mike is a charismatic guy who’s great with the fans,” Cunningham says. “He considers Highland Rim Speedway his ‘home’ track. He’ll be a fan favorite.”

A publicity-generating race and packed grandstands would provide a big boost to the little track as Cunningham and Criswell strive to make it a success.

“It’s been somewhat of a challenge, but we knew that going in,” Cunningham says. “We didn’t get involved because we thought we’d get rich. We got involved because we love the sport of racing and want to keep it alive. That was our objective at the start, and it hasn’t changed.”

For details about times, tickets and rest of Saturday’s schedule, visit the Highland Rim Speedway website.

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