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Marlin’s Track Bid Snubbed

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 6 2011

Sterling Marlin turned down in Nashville. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

NASHVILLE – A group of investors headed by retired NASCAR star Sterling Marlin was passed over Tuesday by the Metro Fair Board in its search for a new Fairgrounds Speedway operator.

The Fair Board chose instead Tony Formosa Jr., who operated the track in 2010. He will operate the 54-year-old facility next year in what is likely its final season. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean wants to demolish the track as part of an overall development of the city-owned property.

Bobby Hamilton Jr. operated the track this past season but encountered financial problems and was forced to cancel the final race, the premier All-American 400. Fair Board officials made it clear that Hamilton would not get a chance to run the track next year.

Marlin, a two-time Daytona 500 champion, headed a group of investors that involved fellow retired racer Chad Chaffin. The Fair Board decided that Formosa made a more attractive financial offer.

Marlin helped Formosa promote the track during the 2010 season and said his only interest was in preserving racing at the facility, under whatever management the city chose.

Marlin’s father Coo Coo won four track championships in the 1960s and Sterling collected three titles in the 1980s. His son and daughter also raced there. Sterling competed in some races this season.

Fairgrounds Speedway once was considered the premier weekly track in the country, at times drawing crowds of 12,000 for its local series. Drivers such as the Marlins, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Hamilton Sr., Jeff Green, Jeremy Mayfield and Casey Atwood got their start there. Country-western star Marty Robbins used to race on Saturday nights, then rush downtown for his Grand Ole Opry performances.

Through 1984, the track also hosted two annual sold-out NASCAR Cup races, drawing the biggest names in the sport.

Interest waned with the loss of NASCAR, followed by the arrival of NFL and NHL teams in Nashville. The decline was felt throughout Middle Tennessee, once a racing hot-bed. Nashville Superspeedway, located 35 miles east of the city, ceased operation last August after a decade of lackluster attendance.

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, December 6 2011
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  • PJ says:

    I think it’s a little premature to say 2012 will be “what is likely its final season.” Thanks to a recent voter initiative, it will now take a super majority of the Metro council to do away with racing at the fairgrounds, which lengthens the odds that the mayor will get his way.