In Hagerty’s latest episode of Capturing Car Culture, host Larry Chen straps into a boosted Crown Victoria to race in the Bristol 1000, a spec exhibition race hosted by YouTube celebrity Cleetus McFarland.
The 100-lap contest among Panther platform Vics is just a part of the packed weekend at the half-mile oval in Eastern Tennessee. Billed as Cleetus & Cars, the two-day event also serves up an epic burnout contest and several helpings of Stadium Super Truck racing. Somewhere in between, Chen sat down with McFarland—known in street clothes as Garret Mitchell—to chat about his YouTube popularity and how the 27-year-old may be unifying several automotive subgroups.
“I’m just trying to make racing fun again,” says McFarland, who got his start in the grassroots drag racing scene. In 2020, McFarland purchased the abandoned Desoto Speedway in Bradenton, Florida, and renamed the 3/8-mile oval the Freedom Factory. The paved oval that once hosted stock car racing’s rising stars soon became a de facto studio for the young personality’s YouTube channel
Between Desoto’s retaining walls, McFarland and his crew spun up wild ideas, including an endurance race with retired cop cars plumbed with nitrous. The races were a hit. And now Cleetus is taking his act on the road.“My whole thing is getting people out to the race track,” says McFarland.
The group’s first-ever visit to Tennessee raceway was a wild one. Check out the episode to see how Chen, Cleetus, and the rest of the 30-car field fared in the battle at Bristol.