The NASCAR Cup Series could be racing in Nashville in 2021. But not at the track where many NASCAR fans want the Cup Series to go.
Dover Motorsports Inc. confirmed Monday evening reports Tuesday morning that it would be moving one of its two Cup Series races at Dover to Nashville Superspeedway. The company owns the 1.33-mile concrete track in the Nashville area and would bring NASCAR back to Nashville for the first time since 2011.
“We were energized to see how excited Nashville was to host the NASCAR Cup Series banquet last December,” Dover president Denis McGlynn said in a statement. “When we built Nashville Superspeedway in 2001 our goal was to one day secure a NASCAR Cup Series race for the venue. Nashville, central Tennessee and the surrounding market area is filled with passionate race fans. We are thrilled that we were able to collaborate with NASCAR and our television partners to get this done and we can’t wait to put on a great show there in 2021.
Nashville Superspeedway has not hosted a Cup Series race. It hosted Truck Series and Xfinity Series races from 2001-2011 but NASCAR left the track because, well, fans weren’t going. The final race weekend at the track featured a Truck Series race and an Xfinity Series race that drew a combined total of 29,000 fans to both races according to NASCAR’s attendance figures. NASCAR said 11,000 attended the Truck race on July 22, 2011 and 18,000 attended the Xfinity race on July 23.
NASCAR no longer releases attendance figures for any of its races. If it did, you’d see how precipitously attendance has dropped at Dover. The Delaware track has produced consistently dull racing for numerous years as NASCAR’s car and tire changes have seemingly not meshed well with the one-mile concrete track.
“Thanks to the collaboration of Dover Motorsports and our broadcast partners, we are excited to bring NASCAR racing back to Nashville, a place where the passion for our sport runs deep,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said. “The Nashville market is a vital one for our sport, and bringing NASCAR Cup Series racing to Nashville Superspeedway will be an integral building block in helping us further deliver on our promise in creating a dynamic schedule for 2021.”
Nashville Fairgrounds needs improvements
Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway has hosted Cup Series races before and there’s been a grassroots movement for NASCAR to have the Cup Series race there again. The Cup Series last raced at the track in 1984.
But the track isn’t up to date and efforts by Speedway Motorsports — the company that owns Bristol Motor Speedway — to revamp the track haven’t been successful as Nashville works to build a soccer stadium for a MLS franchise.
Many within the NASCAR industry hoped Cup would again compete at the Fairgrounds. Multiple proposals have been introduced in recent years to improve the infrastructure at the popular short track, which could open the way for NASCAR to return. However, it is estimated the Fairgrounds require at least $20 million in upkeep for it to be a viable venue to host a NASCAR national series race. To date, those capital improvements are still needed despite repeated efforts by Speedway Motorsports, which owns eight tracks that hold Cup races, to obtain the promotional rights to the Fairgrounds. One such attempt by SMI in 2018 would’ve seen the city contribute $54 million in bond payments and another $2 million in cash to improve the facility up to NASCAR’s standards. That deal was eventually rejected by then-Nashville Mayor David Briley.
NASCAR moved its annual postseason awards banquet to Nashville from Las Vegas in 2018. NASCAR had held its postseason banquet in Vegas since 2009.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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