Former NASCAR Superstar Carl Edwards is the 1st inductee into Nashville’s new Legends Plaza

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LEBANON, Tenn. (AP) — Carl Edwards, a six-time winner at the Nashville Superspeedway, is the first driver inducted into the track’s new Legends Plaza.

Edwards was inducted Sunday before the Ally 400, the third Cup race at the 1.33-mile, D-shaped oval concrete track. He was named one of NASCAR’s top 75 drivers earlier this year despite retiring in 2016 at the age of 36 with 28 career Cup Series’ victories. He called this more than an honor.

“To be able to come back here and reflect on that is just a really powerful thing and a humbling thing for me to be able to share it with my family and my friends,” Edwards said. “This is your day to feel all the love is just over the top.”

Matt Greci, the superspeedway’s president, announced Edwards as the first inductee. Edwards not only won six races on the largest concrete oval in NASCAR, he finished in the top 10 in 12 of his 13 Xfinity Series races here. The superspeedway didn’t host its first Cup Series race until 2021.

The plaza currently is being designed and will be open year-round for fans once open. Drivers will be commemorated in bronze in the shape of a guitar pick, following in the track’s tradition of awarding winners a Gibson guitar. The superspeedway’s current logo is the head of a guitar.

Edwards said he never saw the track filled with so many fans and so much energy. The 30,000-seat grandstand was sold out for Sunday night’s Ally 400 Cup race, with campers and fans all around the track with concerts filling the weekend schedule.

He also noticed Kyle Busch spun out by himself during practice. Edwards said that’s because this track is such a challenge. His wife told him on the way in Sunday that he loved the track.

“I was like, ‘No!’ As a driver, this is like hard,” Edwards said. “This is a tough place. And so I was always very proud of the wins. And I thought it was a testament to my team because as a race car driver, this is a place that your car has to be perfect.”

UNDER THE LIGHTS

The Ally 400 finished under the lights a year ago due to weather delays. On Sunday night, drivers started in prime time thanks to a scheduling move with a 7 p.m. EDT start that should make fans more comfortable with the temperature feeling like 98 degrees just before the green flag.

Chase Elliott called the prime-time start for both Nashville and Atlanta on July 9 smart decisions, if only to keep fans from roasting at tracks with lights. He won here last year in a race that lasted nearly seven hours because of weather issues.

“I just don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have more night races during these months where it’s so hot for the spectators,” Elliott said.

HELLO GUYS

Joe Gibbs’ new minority partners in his NASCAR team showed up for their first Cup Series race only days after the announcement he had sold a piece to prominent members of the group awaiting approval to take over ownership of the NFL’s Washington Commanders.

Josh Harris, David Blitzer, and the entire HBSE & Arctos group joined Joe Gibbs Racing at the Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday.

“We look forward to many (checkered flag emoji)’s together! (And we’re looking forward to W’s with the @sixers & @NJDevils as well!),” JGR wrote on social media.

NFL owners are set to meet July 20 in Minneapolis to consider and potentially vote to approve the sale of the Washington Commanders, a person told The Associated Press on Friday on the condition of anonymity because the league meeting was not announced.

Three-quarters — 24 of the league’s 32 owners — approval is needed to finalize the deal between Dan Snyder and his family and a group led by Harris, owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils. Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson is also among those involved in the incoming ownership group.

MUST GO FASTER

Comedian Nate Bargatze is a Nashville native who remembers the thrill of Interstate 40 being built and even attended a race at this track a couple years ago. On Sunday night, he was the honorary pace car driver for his first time on a NASCAR track.

At least officially. About 20 years ago, Bargatze and a couple friends snuck through an open gate at Richmond and onto the track

“We just drove our car on it, and then someone came and shut the gate pretty fast,” said Bargatze, who has a new special on Netflix.

“I don’t think we were supposed to do that. So that’s the only time. We drove like my friend’s grandmother’s car, you know, Ford Focus, like just putted around and then we got kicked out. So never anything professional or on the record of driving.”

“We just drove our car on it, and then someone came and shut the gate pretty fast,” said Bargatze, who has a new special on Netflix.

“I don’t think we were supposed to do that. So that’s the only time. We drove like my friend’s grandmother’s car, you know, Ford Focus, like just putted around and then we got kicked out. So never anything professional or on the record of driving.”

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports  by Taboola