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NASCAR Keeping Nashville Options Open

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 8 2011

Might Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway, home to Cup racing in the past, host NASCAR again?

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Nashville – The apparent demise of Nashville Superspeedway might open the door to bringing back NASCAR racing to historical old Fairgrounds Speedway.

The Supespeedway, located 40 miles east of Nashville, will seek no NASCAR sanctions next year, owner Dover Motorsports announced last week. The 11-year-old track, valued at around $50 million, is expected to be closed next year.

“I hate it for their sake but it opens up some opportunities for us that hadn’t been there before,” said Bobby Hamilton Jr., who has a two-year contract to operate Fairgrounds Speedway, the 53-year-old five-eights-mile located minuets from downtown Nashville.

Hamilton hopes to land a NASCAR Camping World Series truck race and possibly a Nationwide Series race. The track has hosted races in both series in the past, and until 1984 hosted two annual Cup races.

Hamilton said NASCAR is “eager to get back in the big Nashville market.”

NASCAR president Mike Helton, asked if there is a chance the Fairgrounds could get a race, said: “We are going to take one step at a time at this juncture. We just recently learned about a situation involving a track where we raced for 10 years. We’ll look at all options.”

Fairgrounds Speedway is located on 114 acres of city-owned property and since being built in 1958 has been operated by various lease-holders. Nashville mayor Karl Dean has proposed demolishing the track and re-developing the entire area, but the proposal has met opposition. In a referendum last week, voters supported saving the Fairgrounds by a 71% majority.

“That bought us some time,” Hamilton said, “and it shows how much support there is for

Bobby Hamilton Jr. is hoping to keep Nashville in the NASCAR fold. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

this place. That vote, combined with the apparent closing of the Superspeedway, gives us a chance to hopefully get a (NASCAR) race.”

Hamilton said about $4 million would be needed to get a truck and Nationwide race. About $2 million is needed to up-grade the track, including installing safe-barrier walls, and the other $2 million would be required for sanctioning fees and related expenses.

Gary Baker, former owner of the Fairgrounds track along with Bristol Motor Speedway, put the cost of getting the former NASCAR-ready close to $20 million. He said a long-term lease would also be required, and the city has balked at such suggestions in the past.

“There’s a lot of loose ends that would have to be tied up to make it happen,” said Hamilton, who owns and operates tracks in the outlying communities of Ridgetop and Carthage. “But the opportunity is definitely there.”

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 8 2011
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