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SMI executive discusses 2020 schedule, racing at Nashville

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Marcus Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc., says many changes have been discussed for the 2020 NASCAR schedule and that he’s optimistic to have a NASCAR national series race in the future at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

The 2020 season marks the final year in the five-year sanctioning agreements between NASCAR and tracks. NASCAR President Steve Phelps has said that “everything is in play” when examining the Cup schedule.

“I think there are all sorts of ideas, and you always like to think about different ideas and not be constrained by the box you’re in, think creativity,” Smith said of discussions about the 2020 Cup schedule. “The thing I think will be encouraging for race fans out there is that everybody involved wants to do something that is fantastic for racing. Wherever we end up will be something that is great for racing and NASCAR and race fans.”

Smith did not reveal any specific ideas being discussed.

Smith also is looking to bring a NASCAR national series race to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

Speedway Motorsports and Formosa Productions are exploring a joint effort to bring major motorsports to the Nashville track. Formosa Productions has a multi-year contract with the Metro Nashville Board of Fair Commissioners to promote and manage the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. Cup last raced in Nashville in 1984.

“We’re continuing to speak to leaders in the city, to work towards the goal of being able to bring racing, NASCAR back to Nashville,” Smith said. “It’s fairly complicated, lots of people involved, lots of different parties involved. It’s a goal of ours, and I think it would be fantastic for the sport.”

Smith said that based on “construction and everything” 2021 “would probably be the soonest” the track could host a NASCAR national series event if deals can be made.

The key would be upgrading the track to NASCAR standards.

“We have a really good idea of what it would take to get it NASCAR ready,” Smith said. “There’s a wide range of what you could do. There’s a minimal level and there’s our level, so I think there’s tremendous potential for that facility. It’s a legendary facility in the world of racing, Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, and it also serves as the location for the state fair, for regular community activities. My vision would be something that would serve all those purposes for the next 50 years.”

During the Nashville Board of Fair Commissioners meeting earlier this month, Councilman Robert Swope told the Board: “Since Nashville lost its Cup races in 1984, this is the first opportunity for a major vision for the future of our track. I encourage the Fair Board, Mayor (David) Briley and all stakeholders to seize this opportunity.”

NASCAR America: Short track action is what ‘this sport was built on’

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NASCAR has changed a lot since Dale Earnhardt Jr. was born in 1974.

Through 1985 the series ran 10 short track races per year until the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway was taken off the schedule. From 1985-96 short track fans had eight weekends to anticipate.

In 1997, North Wilkesboro Speedway’s two dates were divvied up between Texas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire International Speedway.

Now there are only six short track dates and that has created a fundamental change in competition at the Cup level, according to Earnhardt.

Fan reaction after last week’s Martinsville finish when Joey Logano bumped Martin Truex Jr. out of the lead was electrifying. One has to go back to the 2017 edition of that same race and the contact between Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott for a comparison.

“(The finish at Martinsville) is something that I think I saw a lot when I was younger, even when I was a kid going to the races. This is something I felt was happening once a month,” Earnhardt said on Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America.

And he asked Dale Jarrett if that opinion was shared.

Jarrett agreed and credited the lack of short track racing as one of the causes.

“First off, we don’t have as many short tracks,” Jarrett said. “(Lower) speeds allow you to do things like (the bump and run at Martinsville). … You can’t go to Texas this weekend – and if you run into the back of somebody, they’re gonna crash hard and there’s the chance you might crash too.”

While not technically a short track – a course less than 1 mile in length – Rockingham Speedway featured the same style of racing, according to Jarrett.

“As the speeds get lower, you have those opportunities to make moments and have moments,” Jarrett added. “And quite honestly, that’s what this sport was built on.”

For more, watch the video above.

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SMI ‘continuing conversations’ to bring NASCAR back to Nashville Fairgrounds

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If NASCAR ever returns to Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, it could be in the form of an Xfinity, Camping World Truck Series race weekend, according to a report by The Tennessean.

Tony Formosa, the track’s promoter, told Nashville’s Metro Board of Fair Commissioners Tuesday that Speedway Motorsports Inc. has expressed interest in the races but warned talks are “still very premature.”

“We haven’t even come close to reaching an (agreement),” Formosa told The Tennessean.

“I’d like to be the guy that brings NASCAR back to the Fairgrounds Speedway, obviously. I don’t want to be the guy that keeps NASCAR from coming back to Fairgrounds Speedway. I think that it would be good for our city and obviously good for our speedway.”

Formosa is in the first year of a five-year agreement to run the .596-mile track after beating Bristol Motor Speedway’s bid last year. Bristol is owned by SMI.

Fairgrounds Speedway last hosted a Cup race in 1984 and Xfinity and Truck Series races in 2000.

“We continue to see a lot of potential at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway in a statement to NBC Sports. “Now seems to be the right time for meaningful preservation of the great local short-track racing and modernization of the historic facility. We look forward to continuing conversations with the Formosas, the fair board and Metro on how we can all work together to bring NASCAR racing back to Nashville.”

Laura Womack, Executive Director of The Fairgrounds Nashville, provided NBC Sports the following statement.

“I can confirm that Mr. Formosa discussed briefly his interactions with SMI at our Tuesday Board meeting. What I cannot comment on is the full nature of those discussions as they are between Formosa Productions and SMI at this time. That said, we are aware of SMI’s interest in the speedway both from a racing perspective and facility upgrades this potential partnership could bring. We will participate more fully, along with Metro, in those discussions at the appropriate time.”

MORE: NASCAR President says “Everything is in play” regarding series scheduling

The Tennessean reported Tuesday’s board meeting also addressed potential World of Outlaws events at the track, with the series visiting the track for two weeks in May. That would bring the total number of races held at the track to 11 annually.

Fair board commissioner Jason Bergeron shared concerns about the track hosting too many races.

“That’s the thing that’s given me pause a little bit is I don’t know where we are with Bristol,” Bergeron said according to the The Tennessean. “It’s suddenly a lot of weekends. I’m kind of just wondering about where we’re heading.”

Here’s why Bristol lost bid to operate Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway

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A late bid by Bristol Motor Speedway to operate Fairgrounds Speedway was rejected Thursday by the Metropolitan Government of Nashville (Tennessee) and Davidson County.

An intent to award the bid to Tony Formosa to continue running the track was issued Thursday. The Tennessean reported that the city would offer Formosa a 5-year contract.

Bristol Motor Speedway’s bid had received support on Twitter from Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Chase Elliott, among others.

The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County released its reasoning Friday based off an evaluation on the four bids. Bristol Motor Speedway’s bid ranked third.

In the comments for the Bristol bid, the government report stated: “The proposal relies on Metro capital funding commitment for improvements with no financial contribution from the proposer (“As the facility owner, it would be desired that Metro would fully fund the renovation capital costs”); shared revenue would be Metro’s share of sales tax only with no lease payments or direct revenue to The Fairgrounds; 30-year lease not desirable; lacked details throughout the entire diversity plan.’’

In a statement from Bristol Motor Speedway after the bid was awarded: “Since news of Bristol Motor Speedway’s interest in Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway became public, the groundswell of local and national support for our vision to bring NASCAR back to Nashville has been humbling. We along with the entire racing community have a deep respect for the Fairgrounds Speedway history and would love to renew its tradition through NASCAR national series events as well as local races. We believe that the historic Fairgrounds racetrack can again become a premier destination that builds on the strengths and traditions of Nashville. We hope there will be future conversations with the city about how Bristol Motor Speedway is well-positioned to help accomplish these goals.”

As for the winning bid by Formosa, the government report stated:  “Detailed plan evaluation criteria section was slightly less detailed and comprehensive; demonstrated a strong understanding of neighborhood impacts and the fair board operations; proposed the highest guaranteed lease payment for proposed motor sport and non-motor sport events; proposed creative non-motor sport events to activate speedway on non-race days; committed more towards revenue while providing less guarantee towards improvements; while the funding amount of $500,000 for improvements was not the highest, it did not rely on any Metro funding that may or may not be available; considerations of noise reduction.’’

The bid by Formosa was given an evaluation score of 78.25 of 100. Bristol Motor Speedway’s bid scored 50.50. A bid from Alexander Racing scored 74.50, and a bid by Alabama Track Ventures LLC scored 48.30.

The evaluation scored up to 40 points for detailed plan, 35 points for qualifications and experience, 20 points for financing proposal and five points for diversity plan. Bristol Motor Speedway scored the lowest (15 points out of 40) for its detailed plan. It also ranked last in its financing proposal (10 points of 20).

Intent to Award Letter and Justification document 

 

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