Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced on Friday that he had signed a letter of intent to renovate Fairgrounds Speedway and bring NASCAR back to Music City. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was present for the moment, posing next to Cooper and Speedway Motorsports president Marcus Smith. Days later, Earnhardt explained why he so badly wants to bring racing back to the short track.
"I raced there, so it definitely makes it close to my heart," Earnhardt said during an episode of the Dale Jr. Download. He then talked about the exciting nature of short-track events at other venues. "We caught lightning in a bottle with Bristol Motor Speedway back in the 70s and into the 80s and 90s. That was the packed, sold-out, couldn't get a ticket type of race track. It was larger than life, Bristol Motor Speedway was."
Earnhardt explained that NASCAR experienced an "explosion" of tracks more than one mile in length. The sport pursued the idea of longer laps and fully embraced it while setting the short tracks to the side. Now the retired driver said that NASCAR needs more short tracks in "the meal."
"Here is a race track that I think is very similar to Bristol in profile, in history, in the ability to put on an exciting race," Earnhardt explained. "If you wanted to try to create a very exciting, popular short track, it has a lot of the ingredients that you would use if you were to start from scratch." As Earnhardt said, the fairgrounds track just needs a "facelift."
In May 2019, Speedway Motorsports proposed a $60 million renovation project at the Nashville Fairgrounds to then-Mayor David Briley and the Metro Board of Fair Commissioners. The purpose was to ultimately bring NASCAR back to the city. This proposal featured a 30,000-seat capacity structure, an expanded concourse, premium seats, pedestrian tunnels, and sound barriers.
This initial proposal fell through, but Cooper is hoping to finalize an agreement with the Fair Board and the Metro Council by May. If approved, Bristol Motor Speedway would become the promoters of the racetrack while assuming all financial responsibilities for its renovation and preservation. The letter of intent calls for City Metro to issue no more than $50 million in bonds for speedway renovations.
Multiple revenue streams would cover the project costs. The list includes user fees and taxes paid by attendees of events at the renovated speedway. Other options are lease payments and a potential naming rights agreement.
While the Cup Series return to Nashville is still very much in question, another racing series will head to the Fairgrounds Speedway in 2021. Tony Stewart's Superstar Racing Experience, an all-star racing series, recently unveiled its first schedule. The six-race schedule will start in June with a trip to Connecticut. It will end on July 17 at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.