NASCAR Takes Its Act Back To Music City

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 4 2019
The NASCAR victory celebrations in Nashville have come to an end. But the sport had kinda returned this week. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

So, Nashville, eh?

I guess moving the annual season-capping banquet, awards ceremony and dress-up party makes some sense. Country music – the Rascal Flatts version if not the Ferlin Husky and Bill Monroe version – certainly should play well to a large portion of NASCAR fans.

It certainly makes more sense than when it was held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City where Manhattanites found the sport and its “Gomers” quaint but a bit of a bit of a pain on the streets of Midtown.

Suffice it to say, New York City has survived the decision by NASCAR to take its final act elsewhere. In 2001, I was in the city for the event and called up an old college roommate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was and is a dentist in Manhattan.

He asked to what did he own the honor of my presence. In town to attend and cover the NASCAR banquet and awards ceremony. His response: The what?

The thing about NASCAR week in NYC is that it was never meant for the fans. It was meant for the sports insiders. People with dough. Sponsors and manufacturers who would bounce from one upscale finger food and booze party to the next at the Waldorf.

Outside the Waldorf, true, old school NASCAR fans risked being moved along by doormen and cops on horses.

Nashville is certainly more affordable than the Waldorf, Sardis or even the cost of a ticket to the observation deck at the Empire State Building.

Kyle Busch celebrated a race win in Nashville once upon a time. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Erik J. Perel)

Las Vegas seemed like a decent fit. But it didn’t take long for NASCAR fans who made the trip to become aware that the days of cheap food and boozed in Vegas are long gone.

Never been to Nashville. Well, not really. Changed planes there a couple of time and the bbq in the airport was not quite Kansas City quality.

They used to host NASCAR races near Nashville. But that all went away.

RacinToday colleague and great friend Larry Woody has chronicled the decline and departure of NASCAR in Nashville in this space.

In August of 2011, Woody led a story with this: “Nashville – Dover Motorsports has announced it will seek no NASCAR races next year for Nashville Superspeedway and will ‘evaluate all options for the track, including its possible sale’.

“The track, located in Gladeville, Tenn., 40 miles east of Nashville, has struggled with attendance since opening in 2001.”

Nashville Superspeedway is neither super nor a speedway these days.

Woody reported in ensuing pieces that former drivers Bobby Hamilton and then Sterling Marlin gave thoughts to obtaining use of the track. Didn’t happen.

In January of 2013, Woody wrote an obit to NASCAR in Nashville:

“NASCAR pioneer Gary Baker once described Nashville as ‘Daytona without the beach’.

“With its rich country-music base, Nashville and NASCAR went together like biscuits and gravy. But in recent years the biscuits have crumbled away – country music’s not country any more – and the racing gravy has curdled and dried up.

“Nashville Superspeedway, the gleaming track located 35 miles out of town in the suburbs, has ceased operation. After opening a decade ago amid hoopla and high hopes, the track failed to draw, and last August owner Dover Motorsports pulled the plug.

“The track was racing’s field of dreams – except that after they built it they didn’t come.

“At the same time, venerable old Fairgrounds Speedway, located in the inner-city, is wheezing on life support. It wobbled through its 54th season this summer, and is scheduled to run a handful of local races in 2012. After that, its future is in limbo.

“ ‘It’s sad to see the state of racing in Nashville, especially for those of us who witnessed it in its hey-day,’ says Baker, who at one time operated Fairgrounds Speedway and owned and operated Bristol Motor Speedway.

“When you think about the racing potential this city had, and how it was all thrown way, it breaks your heart. At one time Nashville was a ‘destination city’ for race fans. Now all of that promise is gone.”

Woody concluded his piece with this:

“Meadowlarks whistle forlornly in the weedy infield and the wind moans through vacant grandstands – a Field of Broken Dreams. They built it, and nobody came.”

But they have come back. Sort of.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 4 2019
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