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WOODY: Nashville Superspeedway Sold, Now What?

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 31 2014

Nashville Superspeedway is in the hands of a new owner. What will that new owner do with the track? (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

NASHVILLE – Dover Motorsports on Thursday announced plans to sell idle Nashville Superspeedway to NeXovation, a technology-innovation company, and now the big question is:

What does the new owner plan to do with it?

The 1.3-mile asphalt track, located in the pastoral suburbs of Gladeville, 35 miles east of Nashville, has sat idle for three years. Dover suspended racing in NASCAR’s Nationwide and truck series due to steadily-declining attendance that had plagued the track since it opened in 2001.

If Dover, with its decades of NASCAR experience and expertise, couldn’t make a go of the track, what makes newcomer NeXovation think it can succeed where Dover failed?

A spokesperson for NeXovation said details about how the track will be utilized will be revealed at a July press conference.

Repeated requests to interview NeXovation CEO Robert Sexton were denied.

A spokesman said Sexton is not ready to reveal his plans for the track.

But clearly he didn’t shell out a reported $27 million in cash, plus assuming another $18.8 million in bond obligations, without having some general idea about what he’s going to do with his new toy.

Why wait till July to share his basic vision for the track? Why get everybody all worked up with the big announcement, then clam up?

Nashville-area race fans have been teased and tormented and jerked around for decades, ever since NASCAR yanked the two annual Cup races in ’84. They’re heard big talk, big plans, big promises before, and nothing came of it.

Pardon me if my cynicism is showing.

It is speculated that the Superspeedway will be used in part for automotive performance testing, as veteran track owner Gary Baker has suggested for years. Several auto manufacturing plants are located in Middle Tennessee.

Other speculation is that it could be utilized as a concert venue or for other entertainment events.

Since the suspension of racing, the track has been used for testing by various NASCAR teams for approximately 50 dates a year, and that could continue under the new ownership.

As for the return of racing, the prospects remain hazy.

When the track opened there were expectations – or hope – that it would eventually land a premier NASCAR Sprint Cup race. That never materialized, and odds now are longer than ever.

The second-tier Nationwide races and third-tier truck races failed to draw. If the new ownership brings back those races there’s no reason to believe they would draw any better in the future than they did in the past.

The same goes for the IndyRacing League, which spent a so-so eight seasons at the Superspeedway before bailing out. Even if the open-wheel series returned, interest in it has waned in recent years, and it has lost such area fan favorites as Danica Patrick and Dario Franchitti.

It is doubtful that an IndyCar return would solve the track’s turnstile woes.

NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth recently created a stir by suggesting that the annual Sprint All-Star race be run at the Superspeedway, but chances of stealing it away from Charlotte Motor Speedway are highly unlikely.

A “diverse motor sports complex” was Dover’s original intent for the Superspeedway site when it bought the property and began development. However, a proposed drag strip, dirt track and short track were never completed as Dover wrestled with attendance problems at the main track.

The new owner could complete the drag strip, dirt track and short track and those, along with various other uses, might render the facility financially viable. Maybe.

Will racing of some sort eventually resume, or will the track become a glorified automotive industrial complex?

If the new owner has any idea, he’s not saying.

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 31 2014
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  • Tony Geinzer says:

    As much as I hate to say this, even with Nashville Fair being kept alive for the Little Cars, I think Tennessee State Fair has to hold the line to build new to have Sprint Cup come back again.