OPINION: Music City the perfect spot to close the NASCAR season

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images via NASCAR

OPINION: Music City the perfect spot to close the NASCAR season

Insights & Analysis

OPINION: Music City the perfect spot to close the NASCAR season

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NASCAR officially brings down the curtain on the 2021 season this week as the industry descends upon Nashville, Tennessee, for two days of celebration.

Nashville has become a hot spot for NASCAR. The awards banquet was held in Music City for the first time two years ago, receiving a warm and energetic welcome from the community. Signage of NASCAR’s presence wasn’t hard to find, and fans turned out in droves for events. NASCAR racing then returned to the Nashville market in ’21 with all three series competing at Nashville Superspeedway, and now a proposal in place to someday head back to the historic Fairgrounds.

It all makes Nashville a fitting place to wrap up another NASCAR season – a season that never lacked a talking point.

There were middle fingers and hack t-shirts. Feisty Kevin Harvick returned, as did the debate over race manipulation after his Bristol night race run-in with Chase Elliott. Harvick went winless in 2021, which was as surprising as Elliott not winning a race on an oval. Yes, that’s a real stat.

The Fords fought for their lives weekly, trying to keep up with the Chevrolets and Toyotas ended up being a tall task with seven wins from five of its drivers. Ford didn’t have a representative in the championship race at Phoenix.

The Cup Series also saw three first-time winners (Michael McDowell; Christopher Bell; Bubba Wallace), an underdog Daytona 500 champion (McDowell), and a surprise triumph for Kaulig Racing at the Brickyard. Wallace became the second Black driver in history to win a Cup Series race with his victory for new team 23XI Racing at Talladega.

Then there was the dominance, the re-emergence of Kyle Larson, who will receive more praise and accolades for winning his first NASCAR Cup Series title as the toast of the town. Larson will join his fellow playoff contenders for Burnouts on Broadway Wednesday night and then numerous media activities on Thursday leading to the awards banquet.

Wednesday’s burnout event was a big hit two years ago. All 16 playoff drivers get to put on a smoke show for the fans on lower Broadway after the sun goes down. This year, the Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series champions Ben Rhodes and Daniel Hemric get to join in the fun.

Fans flocked to Nashville Superspeedway in NASCAR’s long-awaited return earlier this year. Lesley Ann Miller/Motorsport Images

For the second straight year, NASCAR will celebrate having crowned three first-time champions. Chase Briscoe will also be in Nashville to bask in his accomplishment as the Cup Series Rookie of the Year.

Nashville will be a well-deserved celebration of another season gone by and a chance to enjoy a brief respite from the work for next year. But Nashville is also a chance to bid farewell to a few people and things that won’t be back in 2022.

During the burnout event, it will be the last time to see a Chip Ganassi Racing car. The operation has been shuttered by now, with Trackhouse Racing moving into the Concord, North Carolina race shop and taking possession of the Ganassi team assets. Still, Kurt Busch gets one last spin in the No. 1 Chevrolet.

Speaking of the cars, the burnouts also serve as the last chance to see the Gen6. That means cars with 750-horsepower, centered door numbers, and five lug nuts.

Next Gen is here, and after Nashville, they become the center of attention as the industry’s new shiny toy. Next Gen brings a single, center-locking lug nut and car numbers positioned more toward the front tire to open space on the door and near the rear quarter-panel for sponsors to take advantage.

Yes, there is much to celebrate this week and much to look forward to in NASCAR, and there is no better place to do that than in a city that looks to be a part of those plans for years to come.

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