Tommy Lee Byrd is our dude of dudes when it comes to drag racing history and is an absolute bloodhound when it comes to finding old drag cars and hot rods as well. So check out the video below for a really cool look at the history behind 411 Dragway which was in business from 1969 through 2014. This one has some seriously weird history and the fact that it lasted more than a year is nuts.
Tragedy, lawsuits and management issues…411 Dragway was riddled with conflict, starting literally on its first day of operation in May of 1969. It was on that day Floyd James crashed his nitro-burning front engine dragster at more than 165 miles per hour. The crash on opening night took Floyd’s life and his wife later sued the track. Less than one month after the track opened, local neighbors filed charges against the track owners because the track “lowered their property value”. Neighbors would continue to complain, and the track was “permanently” closed in 1971…only to reopen a few days later and then host an IHRA points race later in the same month. The fact that this track didn’t close within its first 5 years is astonishing.
Numerous ownership and management changes caused issues throughout the round track and drag strip’s historic run. 411 Motor Speedway was a 3/8-mile dirt oval, which was paved in the ’90s and went back to dirt about 15 years later. 411 Motor Speedway opened in 1963, and 411 Dragway opened in 1969. The drag strip weathered all sorts of conflict and bad fortune, but remained in business until it was closed in 2014. The McCarter family had purchased the facility a few years before, and the primary focus was on the dirt track. When the drag strip closed, its property was used as additional pit parking for dirt track cars.
Many locally legends raced at 411 Dragway…some were known by their names, and some were known by their car’s name, because back then, most drag cars had big personalities. Cars like the Grey Ghost, Jus’ Ta Boogie’n, Sneaky Snake, Branded Rat, ROHO, Renegade, Vibration, Rapid Rat, and many more are etched into the memories of local racers and fans.
411 Motor Speedway is rumored to be sold to Copart, and the property will likely be leveled and turned into a junkyard. It’s a sad ending to this track’s long history in East Tennessee but it’s a modern day epidemic for racetracks all around the United States.