Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Could NASCAR Be Returning to the Fairgrounds?

It's WAY too soon to know anything (for several reasons), but following the announcement this morning that Nashville Superspeedway is suspending operations, CBS Sports' Pete Pistone speculates this afternoon that NASCAR Racing could return to the historic Fairgrounds Speedway in the future. He writes:
"...the most intriguing story making the rounds is a return to the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, where both divisions raced for years before moving to the Nashville Superspeedway. Former Nationwide Series driver Bobby Hamilton Jr. is now the promoter of the downtown track and has worked hard to resurrect racing at the storied facility."
The thought is interesting, but I'm not sure how rooted in fact it is. Consider this: the fate of the Fairgrounds Speedway rests in the hands of Metro Nashville voters (or, at least, the small percentage that is expected to turn out) tomorrow. On the ballot is the ratification of an amendment to the Metro Charter that reads:

"All activities being conducted on the premises of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds as of December 31, 2010, including, but not limited to, the Tennessee State Fair, Expo Center Events, Flea Markets, and Auto Racing, shall be continued on the same site. No demolition of the premises shall be allowed to occur without approval by ordinance receiving 27 votes by the Metropolitan Council or amendment to the Metropolitan Charter."
If you haven't been paying attention to Nashville news or politics over the past two years, Mayor Karl Dean wants to tear down the facilities at the Fairgrounds and convert the space into a mixed-use development and parkland. A groundswell of support among constituents and members of the Metro Council brought upon the Charter Amendment to save the fairgrounds. Since then, the tumultuous ownership of the Fairgrounds Speedway seems to have been settled, now that the rights to the operating agreement have been purchased by former NASCAR driver Bobby Hamilton, Jr., who also owns Highland Rim Speedway in nearby Ridgetop.

Could NASCAR return to the Fairgrounds?
The 2011 season features only a handful of races, but it has been sponsored by Mike Curb and Scott Borchetta, two Music Row label-owners (with deep pockets, mind you) who have been involved with NASCAR in the past. Borchetta's Big Machine Records also sponsored events surrounding the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis last weekend, and Curb, through his Curb Records label, has been a car owner and sponsor in both NASCAR and IndyCar.

With these guys behind the Fairgrounds Speedway, is it likely that NASCAR could return one of its lower-tier series to the historic track? Sure. Despite NASCAR's unwillingness to put a Sprint Cup race out in Gladeville, I have a feeling it would love to add a short track event in either (or both of) the Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series at one of its legendary facilities. It would take some upgrades to the facility, but I believe it could get done. First, though, it's up to the voters to prevent Mayor Dean from tearing it down.

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