We’re on the cusp of a revolution in NASCAR. For years, fans and analysts alike have clamored for more short tracks on the schedule. Over the past year, NASCAR has taken steps to make that happen.
SMI is working with Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville to return the legendary 5/8ths of a mile oval to the NASCAR schedule in some shape or form. The company made a bid to operate the track last year, but the lease was awarded to current promoter Tony Formosa. Over the past year, the two sides have engaged in talks to work together.
Today, Marcus Smith of SMI says he “has an idea” of what he wants to do in terms of renovations to the classic short track. He even offered a potential timeline.
Marcus Smith says SMI has an idea of what it wants to do to get Nashville Fairgrounds “nascar ready” for national series races… says lots of communication among all parties will be needed to get deal done … most likely earliest #NASCAR national series race there would be 2021— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) January 28, 2019
Nashville’s fairgrounds is already set to build an MLS soccer stadium — a move that would see most of the structures on the property torn down. The racetrack itself has survived numerous attempts of demolition by the Nashville government.
Somehow, the racing community in Nashville has held off those threats. The facility still operates today, running eight racing events throughout the year. They host several different classes of racing, headlined by the pro late models which are sponsored by Big Machine Records. Nashville’s biggest racing event of the year, the All-American 400, is still run annually each fall.
It’s somewhat ironic that the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway has stood the test of time, even outlasting the Nashville Superspeedway, which was built to replace it in 2000. The Superspeedway has been closed since 2011 and now serves as a testing ground for Nissan.
Why a return makes sense
Getting back into the Nashville market is a no-brainer for NASCAR, who has seen ratings, attendance and overall interest decline since the mid-2000s. Nashville itself it booming as a city, adding new events like the NFL Draft and the NASCAR Awards Banquet in recent months.
Fairgrounds Speedway sits just literally minutes away from downtown. The thought of watching a race, then hitting broadway afterwords is such an easy sell. It’s such a natural fit with the city’s culture and history.
What the track looks like today
However, the track remains nearly exactly the same as it looked in 2000, when it hosted its final Busch Series event. The track’s surface is old and abrasive, which is great for racing, but terrible for rain. It’s a tough track to dry because of all the weepers.
The track still has a single layer concrete wall, obviously not up to NASCAR’s safer-barrier standards. The infield is small, but the facility has plenty of room outside the speedway that could operate as a makeshift garage area.
Capacity for seating at the track sits somewhere around 15,000, however much of that is simple slabs of eroding concrete. Grandstand renovation would be a must, perhaps with the addition of more seating being installed elsewhere around the track if the facility were to ever host a Cup event.
You get the idea. This place is suited for a 1980s Cup Series event to this day, but with the right people pulling the strings, along with some cooperation from the Metro government, Nashville could be back on the NASCAR map.