NASCAR's Return to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway Moves Closer to Reality
The vintage racetrack and Speedway Motorsports Inc. stroke a deal in an effort to return big-time racing to Music City
A NASCAR national series return to Nashville, Tennessee, is one step closer to reality. According to a report from the Nashville newspaper, The Tennessean, on Wednesday, Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway operator Tony Formosa have struck a deal that would open the door for a NASCAR return to the track. However, details of the deal have not been disclosed.
Terms of the agreement are dependent on approval from the Metro Board of Fair Commissions, as the track and surrounding property are owned by the City of Nashville.
“Tony and our team both see the same bright future for Fairgrounds Speedway,” Bristol Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Caldwell said. "Nashville has a special reputation as one of the most exciting tracks in the history of motorsports, and the region has a remarkably large and passionate fan base. The motorsports industry — the sanctioning bodies, drivers and race teams — is excited about Nashville’s potential to be a regular site for major events. With Metro supportive of that vision, we are eager to start working tomorrow with the city, Tony and other stakeholders at the Fairgrounds and beyond, to develop a first-class racing facility and program.”
SMI owns and operates Bristol Motor Speedway, a short track in northeastern Tennessee that hosts all three of NASCAR’s top series — the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series, and Gander Outdoor Truck Series — on a yearly basis. Speedway Motorsports also owns seven other race tracks that host NASCAR’s top series, including Atlanta Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, and Texas Motor Speedway.
According to Autoweek, SMI’s goal is to have Fairgrounds Speedway on the 2020 schedules for the Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck series. And the ultimate goal is for the track to eventually receive a yearly date on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
"What we've done is started the first step to do just that, bring NASCAR back to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville,” SMI President and CEO Marcus Smith said during an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "We still have some work to do. We have a great relationship with the city and with the Formosas, who have been operating the weekly program at the race track really successfully. So now we've got to work with the city and other people to bring this vision to life and get it ready for the big time. We're working hard with the city with the goal of bringing the Fairgrounds back to life."
Fairgrounds Speedway, formerly known as Nashville Speedway, hosted the NASCAR Cup Series yearly through 1984. The other two national series now known as the Xfinity Series and Gander Outdoors Truck Series continued racing at the fairgrounds track through 2000. Those two series then moved to a newly constructed Nashville Superspeedway near Lebanon, Tennessee. Nashville Superspeedway, though, has since shut down. The last Xfinity and Truck series races there were in 2011. Neither series has raced in the Nashville area since then.
Proposed plans for the fairgrounds property include turning it into a professional sports megaplex, including a Major League Soccer Stadium. City government already has approved $275 million of financing for the soccer stadium, scheduled to open in 2021, near the race track, but the track operating near the stadium is a possibility.
Fairgrounds Speedway has undergone some cosmetic improvements recently, but more work would be needed to bring it up to NASCAR national-level racing standards, including the installment of SAFER barriers. Nashville’s city government already has set aside $1.7 million for grandstand improvement. Additional costs for other needed improvements would have to be negotiated between the City of Nashville and SMI.
"I believe with the help of SMI the track can return to its glory days,” former NASCAR driver and resident of nearby Franklin, Tennessee, Darrell Waltrip told The Tennessean. "I couldn’t be more pleased and excited for the future of the track.”
The possibility of a NASCAR return to Nashville is garnering support from several NASCAR personalities on social media, including recently retired drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Elliott Sadler. Meanwhile, the sports newly-minted Most Popular Driver, Chase Elliott, is urging fans and his fellow drivers to support the return.