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Fire on Fridays: Nashville Fairgrounds 1 Step Closer to Rejoining NASCAR

One small step for Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. One giant leap for NASCAR short-track fans everywhere.

On Tuesday (March 14), the Nashville Fair Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of the Nashville short track’s revitalization plan and for Speedway Motorsports and Bristol Motor Speedway to take over its lease with a plan to bring NASCAR national touring series back. It just barely squeaked by.

That doesn’t mean we’ll see the NASCAR Cup Series back at the track it raced at from 1958-84 just yet. But the Fair Board was possibly the biggest hurdle, especially since one board member (who eventually voted yes) shared some outlandish claims that residents had made against the track and BMS.

Now, did Bristol really pay people to advocate for the track? I’m not sure, but if it did, that’s money well spent. With all the corruption that already happens in government, we might as well have a little that leads to #MoreShortTracks in NASCAR. That would make more sense, too, as to why Bristol is charging $14 for chicken tenders.

According to motorsports journalist Matt Weaver (huge shoutout to Weaver for breaking down this process because politics bore me), up next for the track is the Nashville Sports Authority. Based on what Weaver said, it sounds like the track won’t get much resistance on that front.

Then, it goes to the Nashville Metro Council, where I believe either 21 or 27 of its 40 members must approve. Weaver said 21 in his tweet, but an article on the matter in the Tennessean says 27.

Theoretically, the track should pass that through that council with flying colors because it would bring in tourists and money. Who could say no to such a thing? Were the track to pass that vote, Speedway Motorsports could then get to work in getting the track ready for NASCAR’s return. The hope is to wrap up this vote up prior to the city’s Aug. 3 elections.

A wrench has been thrown in that council, though. The State of Tennessee recently passed a bill that limits city councils to 20 members. Nashville is currently suing the state because, as I said, its city council has 40 members. Any kind of lengthy legal battle could delay Speedway Motorsports’ plans, so hopefully it’s taken care of quickly. And should Nashville suddenly have to shrink its city council down to 20 members, then it probably becomes harder for the track to pass the vote.

So now that all the boring politics are out of the way, the good news is that there is a very real possibility that a NASCAR return to the Fairgrounds could be approved. This is honestly the most confident myself, and many others, have felt about such a thing happening.

I just can’t see a national touring series racing there in 2024, and 2025 might even be a stretch.

Even if the city council approves it before August, the track still needs some work before it is NASCAR ready. For example, Speedway Motorsports must put in a sound-reduction wall for the surrounding neighborhoods, since much of the pushback has been because of noise complaints. If Cup were to run there, then it could use the mufflers used in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum and the Chicago street course race this year, and that would pretty much take care of sound being an issue.

Back in 2018, Speedway Motorsports President, CEO and Director Marcus Smith said the track would need a “proper crash wall with SAFER foam, a catchfence and network-worthy lighting.” Part of the deal with the city is the grandstands will be redone as well, doubling the current capacity to 30,000 seats.

Aside from those necessities, I don’t believe the track really needs much though. There are some that will argue that it needs updated amenities, suites, Wi-Fi, etc., but it really doesn’t. The only reason the grandstands need work is just to have more seats to put butts in.

I’ve been to the Fairgrounds for two Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) races now and those races went off without a hitch. The first one was sold out and I didn’t hear about any complaints from fans there about the amenities, nor did there seem to be any monstrous issues with traffic and parking.

The same can’t be said about Nashville Superspeedway, which had traffic so bad they had to delay the inaugural Cup race there 15 minutes and fans still missed the first stage. The same can’t be said about North Wilkesboro Speedway, whose sold-out CARS Tour race last August had traffic backed up for miles, forcing many to give up and not attend the race.

Wilkesboro’s facilities are also in much worse shape than the Fairgrounds ā€” it had been stagnate since 1996 while the Fairgrounds was still being used for weekly racing. Still, Speedway Motorsports is rightly moving the All-Star Race to Wilkesboro this year, so there is hope the same can happen with the Fairgrounds.

The perfect play would be to run Wilkesboro as the All-Star Race until the Fairgrounds is able to be added to the Cup schedule. Then, make Wilkesboro a points race and make the Fairgrounds the All-Star Race. Take the Cup race away from Circuit of the Americas or Nashville SS. It seemed like Speedway Motorsports only returned NASCAR to Nashville SS in the first place to warm up those in charge of the Fairgrounds to the idea of NASCAR.

See also
Only Yesterday: That One Time the All-Star Race Was Held at Atlanta

I’d rather see Las Vegas Motor Speedway lose one of its two dates, but that won’t happen as long as the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is paying Speedway Motorsports through 2031.

Regardless, the Cup Series returning to the Fairgrounds seems less and less like the pipe dream it was once considered. It’d probably already be on the schedule if not for politics.

Wilkesboro, check. Fairgrounds, almost a check. Next stop, Rockingham Speedway.

About the author

Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.

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