Special from Tennessean – Before he created his own record company, discovered mega-talented performers such as Taylor Swift or worked as a mentor on “American Idol,” Scott Borchetta was winning races at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
He started out racing Legend cars in the 1990s before claiming a three-peat in the NASCAR SuperTruck series (2003-05) at the historic track.
Borchetta, 58, who has remained heavily involved in racing over the years while also being a major power in the music industry, has been selected for enshrinement into the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway Hall of Fame.
Joining Borchetta in the 2020 class will be former track president and promoter Bob Harmon and the first female inductee Lillie Buford, who drove in the Powder Puff division in the 1960s and is the wife of Flookie and mother of Joe Buford, who were both track champions.
“I always made time for racing,” Borchetta said. “There were plenty of times, especially running super trucks, where I was not going to miss a race no matter what. I would be out with my artists Friday night and then fly overnight to be at the track Saturday morning and run the race. There were times where I’d be sitting on pit road taking a little nap waiting to go out. There was a lot of missed hours of sleep, but man it was worth it.”
Borchetta arrived in Nashville from southern California in the 1980s and followed his father into the music business. Borchetta had raced motocross and quarter midget cars as a kid.
Mark Collie, one of the country music clients Borchetta managed at the time, hosted a celebrity Legends race in the 1990s. Borchetta showed up, finagled a ride and found himself hooked again on racing.
“Mark brought those cars to town to practice and I talked my way into just getting out on the track,” Borchetta said. “And it all came back. I was like, ‘All right, I’ve got to do this.’ I had raced motocross and quarter midgets in California and had gotten away from it. But it never goes away.”
Unable to shake the urge to return to the track, Borchetta started competing in 1995 in the Legends races at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. He moved up to the SuperTrucks series in 1999.
In 2005, the year Borchetta won his third SuperTrucks series championship at the Fairgrounds, he also was managing the careers of Toby Keith, Reba McEntire and several other big-name artists at Universal Music Group.
That same year Borchetta founded Big Machine Records. One of his first signees was Swift, and the roster eventually grew to include Keith, McEntire, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Sheryl Crow, Thomas Rhett, Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts, Florida Georgia Line and The Band Perry along with many other headliners.
Even while experiencing colossal success in the music business, Borchetta never lost his passion for racing.
He is part of the ownership group for Music City Grand Prix, which is bringing an NTT IndyCar Grand Prix to Nashville in 2021, sponsors the featured pro late models point series races at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway and also still competes on the track.
Borchetta took NASCAR Hall of Famer Ray Evernham up on an offer three years ago to drive for him in the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association.
He raced a 1972 Corvette for two years before moving up this year to a higher division and posting three top-10 finishes in four races.
“Here’s the irony,” Borchetta said. “I could end up going into the (Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway) Hall of Fame and also be rookie of year in the same year.”
Harmon, a native of Prattville, Alabama, who was affectionally known as “Uncle Bob,” died in 2002.
In 1980 Harmon and Rex Robbins of American Speed Association founded the All American 400 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. The race is still run today.
Harmon spent a total of 50 years in racing before retiring in 1999. He was president and promotor at the Fairgrounds from 1995-99.
Harmon was inducted into the Alabama Auto Racing Pioneers Hall of Fame in 1998 and received NASCAR’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002.
Buford, a Thompson’s Station resident, was a key member of her families’ race team.
She worked in marketing, was an official scorer, prepared meals, soaked tires and handled accounting for the team, which, along with Flookie and Joe, included her grandson Cody, who raced from 2010-13.
The 2020 class will be officially announced on Nov. 1 at the All American 400.