Chase Elliott makes impassioned plea to bring Cup Series back to Nashville Fairgrounds

Chase Elliott Nashville Cup
Dylan Buell/SRX via Getty Images

LOUDON, New Hampshire – After winning the Superstar Racing Experience finale Saturday night at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, Chase Elliott made an impassioned case for bringing NASCAR’s premier Cup Series to the short track.

“Just the atmosphere of the Fairgrounds, the energy last night was absolutely unbelievable,” the defending Cup Series champion told reporters Sunday before racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I wish all of you all had been there to see it. It was nuts. It just further made double sure that’s where we belong in my eyes.

“I’ve always felt that way, but that other track is not the answer. The energy is right there in town, and we don’t need to search any further. That’s it for that city. No doubt.”

NASCAR held its inaugural Cup race last month at Nashville Superspeedway, a 1.33-mile oval 35 miles from downtown in Lebanon, Tennessee. It was the first time the premier circuit had raced in the region for 37 years.

Speedway Motorsports has been working on a project to renovate the Fairgrounds track with an aim of bringing the Cup Series back to the 0.596-mile track for the first time since 1984. The initiative has been met by local resistance in public meetings.

NASCAR executives have suggested the Nashville market can play host to two annual Cup events, one at the Fairgrounds and the other at the superspeedway (which drew a sellout crowd of 40,000 for its first Cup race, which was won by Kyle Larson).

Saturday’s SRX race drew a capacity crowd that reportedly topped 15,000. Asked if the track could hold a Cup race once equipped with mandatory SAFER barriers, Elliott said, “Go for it. Why not?

“Whatever they need to do to make it happen is what they need,” he said. “As little or as much as it takes to do that is the answer. I don’t know how much it would take or whatever, but that is the location. There is no question about it.”

Beyond the opportunity to race with his NASCAR Hall of Fame father, Bill, Chase Elliott said he “had a duty” to race the SRX event at Nashville Fairgounds as a longtime supporter of the track, where he previously raced in its signature All-American 400 event for Super Late Models.

But personal affection isn’t the only reason why NASCAR’s three-time Most Popular Driver (a low-key and reserved star who usually isn’t so outspoken about big-picture topics) feels passionately about Nashville’s urban short track being a proper spot for stock-car racing’s premier showcase.

“It’s tied to my upbringing or path to NASCAR, so I think in that sense it makes it special,” said Elliott, who was a featured guest at the track two years ago in a media event attended by NBC Sports. “Also, too, as society has changed over the years, we’re never going to build a racetrack that close to a city, which I think is a disconnect for the sport in general compared to other sports. You go to a football game or a baseball game, and you’re right in the city. Where racing we can’t do that (with) noise. You’re just not going to build a racetrack in a downtown area.

The grandstands during the SRX finale Saturday at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (Dylan Buell/SRX via Getty Images).

“Well we have one in a downtown area that’s there and has been there for years and years and years. So it easily would become the most easily accessible racetrack to a downtown popular location where people can go to a race and go downtown via Uber, taxi or whatever. And we don’t have that anywhere else. So I think for that reason it would be very special.”

Saturday night’s victory was special for Elliott, who battled for the victory with his father, Bill, and series co-founder Tony Stewart (who finished second and clinched the championship of the six-race SRX’s inaugural season).

“We were literally racing for the win of the race last night, and that was no fluke or joke or setup thing,” Chase Elliott said. “We were legitimately racing 1-2, which is incredible. Tony has been a hero of mine forever. To share the podium with both of them, I couldn’t have asked for anything to be any more special than that.”

Chase Elliott and his Hall of Fame father, Bill, raced for the lead Saturday at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (Dylan Buell/SRX via Getty Images).

After flying himself back to Charlotte after the race, Elliott caught a plane flight to New Hampshire with Hendrick Motorsports executive Jeff Gordon, who supported Elliott racing SRX, as did team owner Rick Hendrick (who sent a congratulatory text).

Elliott, who raced in some sprint car events last week, also had to clear SRX with NASCAR and said, “everybody I talked to was supportive, at least to my face, and open.

“I’m like, ‘Hey, I have an opportunity to go race for my dad in a live, televised event, and us go enjoy a moment that we might not ever have a chance to do again,’ ” said Elliott, who mentioned heading to New Hampshire for Sunday’s race during his nationally televised winner’s interview on CBS. “And there was no one that said, ‘That’s a bad idea, that’s dumb or we’re going to be mad about it.’ It was nothing but just support, and that’s super cool, and you should go do it.

“From the top at NASCAR to top at HMS. I feel like it was a win-win for everybody. I thought it was an entertaining event. The crowd was fantastic. Talking about the Fairgrounds, short-track racing, Saturday night and now we get to come to do the NASCAR race today, which is obviously the main goal, and where my priority is, so yeah, I feel like it’s just good all around.

Hendrick teammate Kyle Larson also won Saturday night in the prestigious Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway. NASCAR’s revamped 2021 schedules that eschewed practice and qualifying in condensed race weekends have afforded Cup drivers more chances to moonlight.

Saturday’s podium of Chase Elliott, Tony Stewart and Bill Elliott at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (Dylan Buell/SRX via Getty Images).

“We’re bringing the motorsports community together, and it’s a good thing,” Elliott said. “We’re just being more practical right now. And in doing that, we’re able to use our platform here and grow motorsports elsewhere, which is a win for everybody across the board, and I hope everyone sees it that way.”

Stewart said last week that a second season of SRX has yet to be confirmed, but Elliott is hoping to return along with other Cup stars in 2022.

“I think they need to continue to change the drivers up,” he said. “I think that’s what makes that thing special, so whether I go back or not, I do think other Cup guys should go do it every now and again. Absolutely, I think they should keep switching it up and keep fresh faces rolling through that deal.”

Alpha Prime Racing’s road woes don’t keep team from competing


SONOMA, Calif. — Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins laughs. He can. His Xfinity Series cars all are here at Sonoma Raceway.

At one point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.

“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had of my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports on Friday at Sonoma.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma

The Alpha Prime Racing team had both its trucks break down and one of its haulers have mechanical issues last week on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“We basically sent four pieces of equipment on the road and three of them broke,” Martins said.

For a time, the car Sage Karam is driving this weekend at Sonoma was left in a hauler in Kansas City because there wasn’t room in the dually Martins sent. It had room only for the car that was needed at Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was to be a backup at Portland, was left behind.

“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” Martins said.

He still has one truck still in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when everything is totaled.

Trouble started well before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.

The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to run May 27. Rain forced that event to be rescheduled to May 29. Martins said the team had planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. With the race pushed back to the 29th, the travel schedule tightened.

It got worse.

After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day – after being delayed by rain from Sunday – the rest of the Xfinity race was pushed back until after the 600. That further tightened the window on Xfinity teams to make it to Portland.

The Xfinity race ended around 11:30 p.m. ET on May 29. Alpha Prime Racing’s haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.

The two trucks traveled together until issues in St. Louis.

The truck hauling the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine issues in St. Louis. The other truck kept going until it had mechanical issues with its hauler in Kansas City. The air bags on the hauler failed.

So, Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a hauler that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a hauler that did.

The truck in Kansas City went back to St. Louis to attach to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to haul the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A dually left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t, including Karam’s Sonoma car stayed behind.

Yet, more trouble was headed for Martins and his team.

The truck that had gone back from Kansas City to St. Louis to take hauler that worked then broke down about 200 miles from Portland.

“I laugh knowing that we’re on the other side of it,” Martins said Friday of all the issues his team had transporting cars and equipment across the country.

“We’ve started to make plans and corrections for it not happening again,” he said.

That hauler that was left in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.

“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just awesome about the whole thing. … They went through hell week as far as driving somewhere, fly back and pick something up, drive again and now are going to have to do the same thing getting back.”

When the garage opened Friday at Sonoma, Alpha Prime Racing had all its cars.

“I don’t think we had any major issues here, so that was good,” Martins said.

The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart in Friday’s practice, leading Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was last among 41 cars.

After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-earned weekend off.

Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma


SONOMA, Calif. — Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Xfinity Series practice at Sonoma Raceway.

This is the first time the series has raced at the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California. Teams got 50 minutes of practice Friday.

Larson led the way with a lap of 90.392 mph. He was more than a second faster than the rest of the field.

MORE: Xfinity practice results Sonoma

Sheldon Creed was second on the speed chart with a lap of 89.066 mph. He was followed by AJ Allmendinger (89.052 mph), Cole Custer (89.020) and Ty Gibbs (88.989).

Larson, Allmendinger and Gibbs are among seven Cup drivers are entered in the Xfinity race. Aric Almirola was seventh on the speed chart with a lap of 88.750 mph. Ross Chastain was ninth with a lap of 88.625 mph. Daniel Suarez was 16th with a lap of 88.300 mph. Ty Dillon was 33rd with a lap of 86.828 mph.

Anthony Alfredo will go to a backup car after a crash in practice. He was uninjured in the incident that damaged the right side of his car.

Qualifying is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Saturday. The race is scheduled to begin at 8:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

Anthony Alfredo’s car after a crash in Xfinity practice Friday at Sonoma Raceway. He was uninjured. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Saturday Sonoma Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


The Xfinity Series will compete for the first time at Sonoma Raceway this weekend. This is one of eight road course events on the Xfinity schedule this season.

Seven Cup drivers are scheduled to compete in Saturday’s race, including AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, who won last year’s Cup race at this track Allmendinger has won 11 of 25 career road course starts in the Xfinity Series.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Sonoma Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Golden State Warrior Patrick Baldwin Jr. will give the command to start engines at 8:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:20 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. … Driver introductions begin at 7:35 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Earl Smith, team pastor for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers, at 8 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by 9-year-old Isis Mikayle Castillo at 8:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 79 laps (156.95 miles) on the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 20. Stage 2 ends at Lap 45.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 8 p.m. ... Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. and can be heard on … SiriusXN NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mostly cloudy with a high of 72 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: This is the first time the Xfinity Series has raced at Sonoma.


NASCAR Friday schedule at Sonoma Raceway


The Xfinity Series makes its first appearance Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Xfinity teams, coming off last weekend’s race at Portland International Raceway, get 50 minutes of practice Friday because Sonoma is a new venue for the series.

Seven Cup drivers, including Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, are among those entered in the Xfinity race. Suarez won the Cup race at Sonoma last year.

Xfinity teams will qualify and race Saturday at the 1.99-mile road course.

Sonoma Raceway


Friday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 69 degrees.

Friday, June 9

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — ARCA Menards Series West
  • 1 – 10 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2 – 3 p.m. — ARCA West practice
  • 3:10 – 3:30 p.m. — ARCA West qualifying
  • 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 p.m. — ARCA West race (64 laps, 127.36 miles; live on FloRacing, will air on CNBC at 11:30 a.m. ET on June 18)