Speedway Motorsports Inc. Pushes to Bring NASCAR Racing Back to Nashville

The Fairgrounds Speedway, formerly Nashville Speedway USA, last hosted NASCAR’s premier class in 1984.

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Speedway Motorsports Inc., the parent company of several NASCAR tracks, wants to bring national-level racing back to Nashville, Tennessee, and that effort has included meetings with Tony Formosa, track operator of the local Fairgrounds Speedway. SMI submitted a bid to the city of Nashville to control the municipal-owned track in 2017 but lost to Formosa who has had control of the facility, courtesy of one-year leases, since 2010.

Because of the upgrades needed for the half-mile track to have the possibility of a spot on a NASCAR national-series schedule, SMI President Marcus Smith asked for a 30-year lease when placing his bid last year. According to an Auto Week report, the lengthy lease request played into SMI not obtaining control of the Fairgrounds Speedway. Since losing to Formosa, SMI has met with him twice about possibilities to return NASCAR to the longest-operating auto racing track in the U.S.

Required improvements for national-level NASCAR events include the installation of SAFER Barriers, additional seating and modernization of at-the-track medical facilities. Smith would like the Metro Board of Fair Commissioners to put up the money for the improvements, estimated at a cost north of $20 million. Big Machine Records founder Scott Borchetta has stepped forward with an offer to assist in funding the needed improvements. Big Machine Records is the title sponsor of the track’s Pro Late Model series.

Nashville has acquired a Major League Soccer franchise but a home for that team has not yet been determined. One plan Nashville’s local government is considering includes the construction of a complex at the fairgrounds. Smith believes he could operate a track hosting NASCAR events alongside a nearby MLS complex.

Smith met with Nashville Mayor David Briley in early August. One month before, he sent Briley a letter including the following statement, as quoted by Nashville newspaper The Tennesseean:

"We remain very interested in exploring ways that our company could work with you to bring high-profile national racing events to Nashville and restore the Nashville Fairgrounds to national prominence."

The Fairgrounds Speedway, formerly called Nashville Speedway USA, hosted NASCAR’s premier series until 1984. It continued to host other NASCAR series races through 2000, until the construction of Nashville Superspeedway in nearby Lebanon, Tennessee. Upon construction of that 1.3-mile facility, NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck series races moved to the larger track. It has since shuttered operations and the land has been sold.

SMI owns eight tracks that host the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, including Bristol Motor Speedway in northeastern Tennessee. For Fairgrounds Speedway to get a date on the Cup Series schedule, SMI would have to move a date from one of its other facilities. There may be dates available, though, on the other series' schedules, as they run fewer races per season than the Cup Series.