Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley, South Carolina is one of many short tracks in the southeastern United States that helped build NASCAR in its early years, while continuing to lay the foundation for its future. Completed in 1940, the half-mile short track hosted 29 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races from 1951 until 1971, and currently hosts a race in the K&N East Series, whose previous winners include Joey Logano, William Byron and Darrell Wallace Jr.
Outside of NASCAR, the track has also been hosting several local divisions of auto racing since 1957, where drivers like Ralph Earnhardt, David Pearson and Robert Pressley all won track championships in the Late Model division before moving up to NASCAR. Among the next generation of drivers at Greenville-Pickens who are attempting to work their way up through the ranks is Asheville, North Carolina native Taylor Nesbitt, who recently secured the Limited Late Model championship at the track.
“We chose to run Greenville-Pickens because I go to Clemson, and I lived in Anderson, South Carolina for a short period of time,” Nesbitt said. “I had wanted to travel around, and we had run some other tracks, and we just decided that Greenville-Pickens would be a good place to run, and we’ve been racing there the past two years.”
Taylor is the daughter of former USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series regular Mart Nesbitt, who made 182 starts in the series over the course of his career, scoring 16 Top 5’s and a victory at South Boston Speedway in 2003. Nesbitt also made his only career ARCA start in 2004 driving for Wayne Peterson at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he scored a lead lap finish of 13th, and finished in front of 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski.
Once Nesbitt began to scale back his racing schedule in 2008, he shifted his focus towards helping Taylor get her career started, who was already racing quarter-midgets in North Carolina against drivers such as Ryan Blaney and Harrison Burton. She started racing at Newport Motor Speedway in 2011, where she finished 9th in the track’s point standings, but proceeded to follow up her rookie season in 2012 by finishing 4th in points and 13th overall in the East Region of the ASA Member Track National Championship.
In 2014, Nesbitt moved up to the SouthEast Super Truck Series to drive the #92 for Nesbitt Racing Enterprises, which her father had driven to nine Top 5 finishes and a victory over the previous two years. Taylor initially struggled to replicate the success of her father in the series, but finished her rookie season with two Top 10s at Tri-County Motor Speedway and Newport Speedway before leaving the series to focus on other opportunities. Both Mart and Taylor still make occasional starts in the series, with Taylor scoring her first career Top 5 at Newport earlier in 2017.
Taylor has also made select appearances in the Southeast Limited Late Model Series and the Super Cup Stock Car Series since 2011, but has spent most of her time running in the Limited Late Model division at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. Nesbitt said that navigating the historic short track was a learning curve at first, but added that the experience that she has obtained over the last several years was crucial in helping her win the track’s Limited Late Model championship.
“It was really exciting to win the championship,” Nesbitt said. “We ran Limited Late Models last year, and I finished second in the points. This year, I got a win and a pole, and then I won the championship. We never finished worse than fourth all year, so it’s been a really good year for us, and I am really excited and blessed to finally win a championship.”
With the Greenville-Pickens Limited Late Model championship in hand, Nesbitt has turned her attention to the Myrtle Beach 250, where she will be among several drivers competing in the 100-lap SELLM feature. Nesbitt stated that racing against several talented fields at Greenville-Pickens helped prepare her for this weekend’s race, and now feels more comfortable racing at larger tracks such as Myrtle Beach Speedway.
“Racing at Greenville-Pickens taught me how to race on a worn out surface,” Nesbitt said. “They did pave it, but last year it was not paved, so I got used to that. The speeds picked up at Greenville this year as well, so I don’t think the speed is going to be as big of a change for me as it was in the past. The size of Greenville doesn’t seem as big to me going into the Beach now as it used to.”
Nesbitt added that she currently does not have a planned out strategy for the race, but that her qualifying run will likely determine how aggressive she drives for the 100-lap SELLM feature. Regardless of where she qualifies, Nesbitt hopes to have a car strong enough to compete for the victory in order to add another achievement to her family’s 30-year history in auto racing.
After the Myrtle Beach 250 concludes on November 11th, Myrtle Beach Speedway will host the 25th annual Myrtle Beach 400, which will include a 125-lap Modified feature, and conclude with the 225-lap Late Model race on November 18th. The prestigious event, which will be broadcasted on national television for the first time in its history, is expected to attract many notable Late Model drivers, including former winner Lee Pulliam, who enters the Myrtle Beach 400 as the 2017 Late Model champion at the track.