NASCAR has announced a major change to the Cup Series schedule starting in 2021. For the first time since 2011, drivers will head to Nashville Superspeedway for a race. The 1.33-mile concrete track in Lebanon, Tennessee, has been idle since its last NASCAR event, but that will be changing next year.
NASCAR and Dover Motorsports Inc. announced the change on Wednesday. To make room for the added event in Tennessee, the Cup Series will drop Dover International Speedway from two events to only one. Dover Motorsports Inc. originally built Nashville Superspeedway, which hosted NASCAR, ARCA and IndyCar events from 2001-2011. Now the track will once again host races and other events.
"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 in a statement. "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." Phelps did not announce the date of the upcoming Nashville race.
With the announcement of Nashville events, fans expressed concern about the fairgrounds. Many are calling for races at the Nashville Fairgrounds, a 0.5-mile short track, and don't want to see it remain idle while the Superspeedway returns. Dale Earnhardt Jr. even spoke about this venue leading up to the 2019 NASCAR Cup Awards Banquet and said that he would take part in any Xfinity races at the historic track.
"I think we belong in Nashville," Earnhardt said. "I think we belong in Nashville racing cars. That's more important than even having the banquet there. It's a great place for us to be racing and we should be racing there."
The Fairgrounds board and city officials have been working on proposals that could make this return possible. Bristol Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports, Inc. even proposed a $60 million renovation plan. Progress is slow, but Speedway Motorsports' President Marcus Smith said that the short track at the fairgrounds is still a priority.
"The news that NASCAR will bring a Cup race to Wilson County and the greater Nashville region in 2021 is a positive move for the sport of NASCAR and for NASCAR fans," Smith said. "In recent years, we've made it very clear that we think Nashville is a place where NASCAR should be for the future and not just the past. Our efforts to work with state and local government officials to revive the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway will continue. We believe that the beloved short track in downtown Nashville provides tremendous opportunity to be a catalyst for year-round tourism and entertainment development."