Despite a minor bump in the road, local racing will remain at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville in 2020, while the NASCAR industry works towards a possible comeback over the next decade.
Veteran race promoter Bob Sargent of Track Enterprises has been selected as the leaseholder for the venerable Tennessee short track. Under the agreement, Sargent will host seven local events and three signature events next year.
That includes a new date for the ARCA East division on May 2-3 alongside Super Late Models and the USAC Silver Crown Series and the trackâs marquee All-American 400 from Oct. 31 toNov. 1.
A new leaseholder was necessary following the eviction of previous promoters Formosa Productions for unpaid debt.
Sargent and Track Enterprises have promoted ARCA Racing Series and Super Late Model doubleheaders in the spring since 2015 and were no strangers to the City of Nashville and the Metro Fair Board.
âWe already had a relationshipâ Sargent said during a press conference on Saturday at the Performance Racing Industry trade show. âWeâd been there for five years running the ARCA national series. We had a good relationship with the fairgrounds, and I think we were always in talks about the future.â
This agreement also will not affect the continued discussions to bring NASCAR back to the historic 0.596-mile venue. The NASCAR Cup Series banquet took place in Downtown Nashville earlier in the month and provided momentum to those who believe the city is ripe for a NASCAR comeback.
The Cup Series has not raced the downtown short track since 1984 and the Xfinity and Truck Series have not turned laps since the 2000 season. There were races at the 1.3-mile concrete Nashville Superspeedway in Gladeville, Tennessee, but they were short-lived and the track closed in 2011.
Fairgrounds Speedway needs an estimated $20 million, at a minimum, to be capable of hosting NASCAR national touring events.
Speedway Motorsports, Inc. struck a deal with Formosa Productions last year as a preliminary step to bring NASCAR national touring events back to Nashville in addition to weekly racing. The city is currently reviewing a new proposal from SMI.
SMI previously pitched a plan that called for $54 million in bond payments and $2 million in cash from the city to revitalize the speedway, but the previous mayor, David Briley, rejected it, citing a desire to not use public funding. Another proposal had the race track paying for itself using revenue generated from NASCAR events by way of a ticket tax, where the fans who attend would therefor be responsible for upgrades.
Sargent says he doesnât plan to impede that progress at all.
âOf course, the soccer stadium is big news in Nashville and the (SMI) interest is big news,â Sargent said. âWe just wanted to make sure the facility (kept) going while all this is going on. I think the future, short term, 2020 is solid. We would like to continue going at the facility in our role. A lot of that will depend on how the NASCAR and/or soccer develops.â
Construction of the much-ballyhooed Major League Soccer stadium has been delayed as the new mayor reviews theÂ plans.
Mayor John Cooper is in the first two months of holding his office, and while believed to be generally supportive of the Speedway and the State Fair, all the public gestures coming from his office is that his staff is reviewing all the relevant facts to date.
For now, local racing will remain on the grounds of the Tennessee State Fair, and it will be overseen by one of the most successful of grassroots racing today in Bob Sargent.
âThis is really not unlike a lot of the other events we do,â Sargent said. âWe go in and we try to make a really good facility, good events, customer relations, participant relations, just trying to make the whole experience good from the racer standpoint, the fan standpoint, the sponsor standpoint and the media standpoint.
âWeâll work very hard on that.â