“It’s something that’s always been in our blood,” says Mike Brawley, a top driver in the 1980’s at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway. Mike followed his dad John into the sport, and he now assists son Austin in carrying on the family tradition.
“I inherited the love of racing from my dad, and I guess I passed it on to Austin,” he says.
Reflecting on his past career, Mike says:
“I enjoyed the heck out of it. I won quite a few races and finished second to Bobby Hamilton one year in the championship standings. I had my turn, and I have no regrets about it being over. Now I’m content to stay on the sidelines and help Austin.”
Mike says the sport has changed dramatically through the generations.
“The biggest difference is the cost,” he says. “Back when my dad and I raced it wasn’t so expensive, and a lot more drivers could afford it. These days you have to spend $75,000 or $85,000 to put a car on the track and be competitive. That high cost is forcing a lot of people out of the sport, especially on the local levels. Nowadays it seems like it’s more about equipment than talent.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the frustration that lurks at every turn on the track – one blown engine, one spinout, one crash into the wall can wipe out a potential victory or upend a promising season.
“That’s always been part of it,” Mike says. “For example, we had a lot of motor problems last year that really hurt us. It gets aggravating, but you just have to put it behind you, keep working, and go on.”
Austin, a graduate of Mt. Juliet High, is an aerospace engineering major at Middle Tennessee State University. He finished mid-pack in the Speedway’s premier Pro Late Model division last season, racing against such notables as two-time Daytona 500 champion Sterling Marlin.
“Austin is a good driver,” says Mike. “I put him in a quarter-midget car when he was six, and by 13 he was racing trucks at the Rim (Highland Rim Speedway). He seems to take to it naturally. He’s already a better driver than I was.”
Austin, named the division’s Most Improved Driver in 2015, terms the past frustrations “a bummer,” but is determined to forge ahead.
“We've got a new car and a new trailer," he says. "We’re working on some exciting things for this season. In racing you can't just sit back and wait for something to happen. You have to work for it."
Rather than be discouraged by some of last season’s setbacks, the Brawleys are doubling their racing efforts this season.
“We plan to run twice as many races,” Mike says. “In addition to a full schedule at Nashville, we’ll run at Montgomery and New Smyrna. We’re getting a new car and a new hauler, and we’ll be ready to go when the season opens. That’s what’s great about this sport – there’s always next year.”
Fairgrounds schedule: Fairgrounds Speedway has announced an eight-date schedule for the 2018 season, starting March 25 and concluding with the October All-American 400.
Included on the schedule is an April 7 ARCA race, the second stop on the ARCA schedule after its February opener at Daytona.
For the complete schedule and other track information visit the Fairgrounds Speedway website.
Rim running: Highland Rim Speedway has not yet announced its 2018 schedule, but it is expected to run a full schedule similar to last season’s. Updates will be posted on the track’s website.