Since the last NASCAR Xfinity race at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway during the 2000 season, fans and short track lovers alike have been clamoring for a NASCAR return to the historic facility at some capacity. Unfortunately, the track has been in the middle of needless controversy as of late.
Unlike most tracks on the NASCAR circuit, the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is actually in the metropolitan area of Nashville, only 4 miles away from Broadway. This has proven to be problematic for many people who call the surrounding suburbs of the fairgrounds home, many complaining about the potential noise issue and traffic jams a NASCAR event would bring to their already congested streets.
To add layers to the story, this week Tennessee Governor, Bill Lee, in conjunction with Bristol, signed a bill to stop the necessity of a supermajority vote to demolish the famed short track, as first reported by Jon Styf.
So, what does this mean? And, more importantly, what does it mean for NASCAR’s future at the track? Let’s talk about it.
The Legal Jargon
To say that the issue surrounding the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is a complicated one for everyone involved would be a massive understatement.
NASCAR, by and large, left the speedway back in 2000 with its final Xfinity race there leaving the track to primarily host weekly racings series events such as the CARS Tour or Advanced Auto Late Model Series. These events do not attract the massive crowd that a nationally touring series like the Xfinity or Cup Series would.
In April, a 3-to-2 vote by the Nashville Fair Board Council agreed to the Speedway Motorsports proposal for the speedway to be leased to SMI and be renovated with the goal being to eventually host a NASCAR Cup Series race at the 118-year-old track. These renovations would include a seating capacity upgrade from 12,000 to 30,000 with additional renovations to expand parking areas.
This proposal would allow SMI to operate the track on lease for the next 30 years. Sounds pretty promising, right?
In addition to that vote, Tennessee Governor, Bill Lee, signed into law that the Nashville government will no longer be required to get a supermajority to move on any future legislation when it comes to speedway renovations. While we do not know the specific voting records nor where they stand on this single issue, the passing of this bill looks promising for supporters of the track renovations. Prior to this, in order to get a vote on renovations, SMI would need a supermajority, or a 66% approval vote. Now, with this document signed, it only takes a simple majority of council members to act. This proposal will favor the speedway once it’s time for the council to cast their votes.
There have been some movements to oppose the proposed BMS/SMI plan to renovate the Nasville Fairgrounds Speedway, most notably on Twitter, Citizens Against Racetrack Expansion, aka Nashville CARE. They have been spreading petitions for citizens of Nashville to sign asking for the local government to decline the SMI proposal and leave the track as is.
Some of the more prominent criticism is about the noise level a full-on NASCAR race would produce as well as traffic issues. In the Tweet below, the organization states that they do not oppose the existing speedway but expose the “expansion” which would apparently turn the half-mile short track into a “massive NASCAR superspeedway”.
Another criticism this specific Twitter page has spouted would be that any renovations to the speedway would be at taxpayer expense with SMI fitting none of the bill.
thesurlybadger claims that this proposal would be “corporate welfare” and wants Nashville to be “more livable for its citizens, not tourists.” We’ll get into why that Tweet is very ironic in just a moment.
Here, the CARE account claims that the plan SMI/BMS proposed would “demolish the Fairgrounds Speedway” only to replace it with “massive NASCAR track.” Well, there wouldn’t really be any room to do that and you’ll see why in just a moment. The track will stay roughly the same size, only the grandstands will be upgraded and expanded via the BMS plan.
The Rebuttal: Speedway Renovation Supporters
A counter account to Nashville CARE on Twitter fights back to their tweet claiming a “superspeedway” would replace the current short track. In this Tweet below, they allude to what is a common theme for the argument in favor of racetrack renovation: the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway has been in existence for 118 years, longer than the surrounding neighborhood the opposition is so concerned about.
These land developers and the people living there chose to build condos, houses, and apartment buildings AROUND an ACTIVE speedway. What did they think went on there? RACING! That’s like building your house on the opening of an active volcano and then getting mad when you get splashed with lava. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Andrew Lee believes that the current Bristol Dirt spring event is merely a placeholder for when the Fairgrounds is ready to return.
This tweet from Frank Robinson, a Nashville resident, responds to Nashville CARE’s tweets, claiming that they are spreading lies and misinformation in a futile attempt to stop racetrack restoration.
David Smith points out the strangeness of the opposition’s arguments against racetrack restoration but adds in this really good point: a brand spanking new professional soccer stadium in the same neighborhood as the speedway. Would that not also attract massive crowds and tourists? It has a capacity of 40,000 spectators.
With that point, the only legitimate concern now would be with the noise. NASCAR has show recently that they are willing to accommodate such a complaint by implementing mufflers at the Clash in LA earlier this year as well as the upcoming street race in Chicago. They could do the same for the residents of Nashville but it would appear that they don’t see too willing to come to the table and negotiate.
NASHVILEE DOESN’T CARE tweeted that they are not standing with the Nashville CARE page, calling them out for their misinformed takes on the BMS plan.
Former NASCAR driver and YouTuber, Kenny Wallace actually took a trip to Nashville to promote saving the track.
This video is an important watch because here you can see just how close the new soccer stadium is to the racetrack. As Kenny points out, it’s only about 100 yards away.
This YouTube video is also a great watch, breaking down the criticism of the BMS plan and why it’s heavily flawed propaganda.
A Potential NASCAR Return?
With this much controversy around the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, it might be a while before we see any of the nationally touring series return to the historic facility. At the absolute earliest, maybe 2026? But that still depends on how the vote over the BMS plan goes.
And even if it goes in a favorable direction for the speedway and race fans alike, I’m certain many members of the Opposition will have a lot to say about it and will try to stop it at any cost. The racing surface seems pretty good to go with SRX racing there in their first two seasons of existence. The only thing that would really need to change would be the seating. That needs to be updated as well as the facilities to give it a more modern NASCAR look and I believe SMI is the right bunch to do it.
They might also need to figure out a plan for the potential traffic and parking. As for future plans, the ARCA East Series, which is now part of the NASCAR fold, will be hosting an event there later this summer. Maybe that’s where it begins.
So, tell us, Daily Downforce readers: Would you like to see the Nashville Fairgrounds back on the NASCAR schedule, even if it’s only for a lower series? Do you think the Metro Council will vote in favor of BMS’s plan or do you think it’ll die there? And, if the plan does get passed, when do you think it’ll be on the schedule and at what point in the season. Do you think it’ll take the slot of Bristol Dirt? Let us know!