New hope has arisen for racing’s return to prominence at the Nashville Fairgrounds amid the city’s proposed plan to rezone 10 acres of the Fairgrounds property to include a new 30,500-seat Major League Soccer stadium.
The Tennessean reports that after the Bristol race, Nashville Mayor David Briley held a informal meeting with a group that included Bristol Motor Speedway president Jerry Caldwell and Marcus Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns BMS and seven other NASCAR tracks. At SMI’s request, Briley agreed to listen to the group’s interest in “bringing high-profile national racing events back to the city-owned speedway.”
In current plans for the $275 million soccer stadium, the Fairgrounds Speedway would continue operating. However, the expo center and other fairgrounds facilities would be torn down and rebuilt elsewhere.
Smith met separately last week with Tony Formosa, the current track operator who was given a five-year extension late last year, the Tennessean reports. Speedway Motorsports had also bid on the contract.
Smith and Caldwell are to said to have met with Formosa and his daughter Claire, who is the track president, last year about working together. Formosa told the Tennessean “Our table’s open,” in regard to a partnership, but there have not been formal talks.
“We’ve had some great conversations in Nashville with people that see the same great potential we do in the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway,” said Caldwell when asked for comment about the latest meeting. “As the city continues to grow as a tourism destination, we’d like to be a part of the right opportunity to bring NASCAR back to Nashville, building upon the current events and what is already a great historical legacy.
“We look forward to further discussions and would welcome the opportunity to create a winning relationship for all parties.”
When reached for comment, Charlotte Motor Speedway officials said Smith has been deferring to Caldwell.
Fairgrounds Speedway has not hosted a NASCAR national series race since 2000 when the Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series were last there. The track last hosted a Cup Series race in 1984. If racing were to return to the facility, it would need millions of dollars in upgrades.
Metro Council voted Monday night 20-9 to approve the proposal for the stadium project. A final vote is said to be taking place next week.