Race Weekend Central

Nashville Fairgrounds vs. Superspeedway: Drivers Sound Off as Decision Looms

LEBANON, Tenn. – NASCAR’s return to Nashville Superspeedway in 2021 after a 10-year hiatus marked the first NASCAR weekend in the Nashville area since 2011 and the first NASCAR Cup Series race in the Nashville area since 1984.

Returning to the speedway has served a dual purpose, as NASCAR currently has its eyes set on another big prize in Music City: Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

The 0.596-mile short track’s first Cup race was held in 1958, and the track was host to 42 Cup races until the series left after 1984. The track was added to the NASCAR Xfinity and Craftsman Truck series schedules in the mid-1990s, and the last national touring series race at the track was held in 2000.

The track was a staple of the ARCA Menards Series schedule from 2015 to 2019, and the ARCA Menards Series East has made an annual trip to the speedway since 2021.

A historic track that’s just a few miles away from downtown Nashville, there have been proposals to renovate the track for a potential Cup return. The city-wide vote to provide funding is drawing closer and closer, and if it passes, it’s all but guaranteed that NASCAR will return.

A potential return raises questions about racing in the Nashville area. If the Fairgrounds return, is Nashville Superspeedway (whose contract expires at the end of 2024) off the schedule for good? Or is it possible for both tracks to be on the schedule at the same time?

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All of those are hypotheticals at the moment as NASCAR, Nashville and onlookers await the vote.

Chase Elliott, for one, is all in on a Fairgrounds return.

“Obviously I’m on one side of the fence,” Elliott told Frontstretch. “In fairness, I probably don’t see the whole picture, but I see a great opportunity for our sport to go and shine at a place that can never be recreated.

“We’re never going race inside the city like that at a facility. We’re going to do the Chicago thing, yes. But that [Fairgrounds] facility is perfect. You’re not going to get inside a city like that and tap into that market with that cool of a racetrack.

“… It’s where we belong. The [superspeedway] is a nice facility, it’s nice to get in the Nashville market, kind of, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what that could be and what it should be.”

He also shared his two cents on the local residents who have been opposed to the renovations, in part from a concern about noise.

“To the naysayers, it’s probably going to be one event a year,” Elliott said. “We’re talking one or two days a year that that facility would be as busy as these facilities become when NASCAR comes into town. At the end of the day, I don’t think the traffic or the things going on would be any different than the soccer stadium that is almost touching back of the grandstands, right?”

Joey Logano echoed Elliott’s sentiments on returning to the Fairgrounds, but he also had praise for the superspeedway.

“I’ve raced at the Fairgrounds a couple times before and I’ve enjoyed it,” Logano said. “I thought it was a really cool, super cool racetrack. Not taking anything away from the [superspeedway], because this racetrack has gotten a lot better than what it was when we raced here 15 years ago.

“It used to be one, maybe two lanes. It was not very racey, and honestly, that’s why people stopped coming and it went out of business. But now, the track is three, four lanes wide, and the racing has gotten a lot better.”

Austin Dillon said he simply enjoys visiting Nashville.

“I would love [both on the schedule],” Dillon said. “Nashville is a great place for us and the fans and the country music aspect of this area. I think they’ll show out very well. I would love to see the Fairgrounds, obviously. North Wilkesboro [Speedway] was a success, I think that would be a great move for us to go to the Fairgrounds, I’d be smiling.”

Could the two tracks coexist on the schedule? Erik Jones and Kyle Busch had doubts.

“Yeah, I’d love to return [to the Fairgrounds],” Jones said. “I don’t know if [the tracks] can coexist necessarily. I don’t see that possibility other than if you switched off year to year or something like that.

“I think [the superspeedway has] done good, it’s put on good racing. So yeah, hopefully we can get back to the Fairgrounds and put on a good show, I think it would be a cool event, a cool atmosphere. But yeah, I don’t know about coexisting, that would be a challenge for sure.”

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“Yes and no,” Busch said. “I think it kind of depends. With the city and the support and everything else, if you can get a full house here and a full house there, sure. But as soon as you see one suffering because of the other, I think that’s when you got to look at things.

“We’ve seen that with Atlanta [Motor Speedway] over the years, Texas [Motor Speedway] over the years, even [Las] Vegas [Motor Speedway] now is kind of getting to that point when the majority go to the spring race because it’s too hot in the summer.”

Now three years into its return, Nashville Superspeedway has been an overall success. The inaugural Cup race featured a sell-out crowd, and the Cup race was sold out once again in 2023. Logano also highlighted the successes in promoting the weekend.

“I think they’ve done a really good job with fan engagement,” Logano said. “I spent some time out in the Midway this morning with my kids, and they have motorcycles doing tricks, and we sat there and watched it. Ford had an amazing display out there with an amazing-looking racecar in it.

“But there’s a lot of things to do on top of the race, they have music going out there, there’s concert stuff, so, I think they do a good job with making the whole experience.”

The Next Gen car has had its fair share of struggles on short tracks and flat tracks, but it has excelled on intermediate ovals – the 1.333-mile superspeedway in no exception.

Drivers are able to run multiple lines around the superspeedway, and that has led to increased passing and battles up front. For the stage two restart in Sunday’s (June 25) race, race-winner Ross Chastain, William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. were able to run three-wide around the entire oval for four laps until Truex finally took the point.

And as part of the race weekend, the superspeedway announced on Sunday it will be building a Legends Walk that will highlight the drivers with exceptional success at the track. Carl Edwards – a six-time superspeedway winner between Xfinity and Trucks — was unveiled as the first honoree.

If the superspeedway was simply a placeholder event until the Fairgrounds was ready for Cup racing, the track would be thinking short-term. Constructing a Legends Walk indicates the track is planning beyond its current contract.

NASCAR’s future plans in Nashville are currently riding on the upcoming votes for the Fairgrounds. Once that piece of the puzzle has a resolution, NASCAR’s endeavors in Music City will have a clearer picture going forward.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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