Following a hugely successful championship banquet week in the Music City, residents of the NashvilleÂ metropolitan area expressed a sentiment that they at least want NASCAR back.
And while there is much work to be done, the NASCAR industry is taking steps in that direction.
NASCAR descended upon Nashville last week for a series of festivals leading up to the annual awards ceremony. The most impressive visual was the “Burnouts on Broadway,”Â which featured the 16 playoff drivers doing burnouts on the most famous downtown city street.
The undercarriage of the cars were lit up like something from the Disney franchiseÂ Tron. The event was attended by thousands and captured the imagination of those who wondered, “What if NASCAR came back to Nashville?”
Unbeknownst to most at the time, the city was finalizing a deal with a new promoter for Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, the legendary short track that once hosted NASCAR Cup events until 1984 and last hosted Trucks and Xfinity in 2000.
The track has been targeted by Speedway Motorsports Inc.âs Bruton and Marcus Smith as a possible new venue for the Cup Series over the next decade and conversations have continued with the city over the summer over how to financially structure such an event.
The track needs millions of dollars to be NASCAR national touring capable, but there is some degree of mutual interest.
And based on championship week, that interest includes the near entirety of the current driver roster,Â especially reigning two-time series championÂ Kyle Busch.
“I love racing in Nashville,” Busch said. “I raced over at the short track twice, I believe and really enjoyed doing that. It would be nice to have racing back and be a prominent thing in the city, with either track, really. But I believe the short track would be a better fit.”
The sportâs most popular driver, Chase Elliott agrees.
“You’re not going to find a short track or race track this cool, this size, that close to a major city like this,â Elliott said. âThatâs a missing piece in speedways across America.
“Thatâs something you have right here, so why don’t we use it?”
Two of the most prolific stars in the history of the sport said they would come out of retirement to race at the Fairgrounds. Dale Earnhardt Jr. currently races once a year in the Xfinity and would easily add Nashville to his slate, given the rich history he has at the track.
“I think we belong in Nashville racing cars,” EarnhardtÂ told The Tennessean. “Thatâs more important than even having the banquet there. Itâs a great place for us to be racing and we should be racing there.
“If they ever did run an (NASCAR) Xfinity race there and itâs in the next four or five years Iâd love to put that on my calendar as a race to go run. Because that was a lot fun when we used to race there in â98 and â99. I had more fun probably racing the late model there with (Joe) Buford and (Chad) Chafin and all of those guys back in the day.
“The door is open for (NASCAR) to think about where we need to be or should be and I have to feel like Nashville and the Fairgrounds specifically has to be in that top three places we should be trying to go to.”
Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson will retire from full-time competition following the 2020 season but tweeted a response to Dale Jr.âs push for Nashville with just three words:
“Count me in.”
Clint Bowyer says Nashville represents the cross section of NASCARâs past and its future.
“Itâs important to not lose your roots,” Bowyer said. NashvilleÂ “is a perfect fit. Country music songs are about NASCAR.”
Kurt Busch said a Cup race at the Fairgrounds would be a sellout.
This will not be an overnight process but NASCAR itself, Speedway Motorsports and the driver roster all seem aligned on the need. And that might be enough to get the ball rolling.
“More work that has to be done than just showing up and unloading cars and having a race,” short track aficionado Denny Hamlin said. “I would suspect that racing will be back in Nashville within the next 10 years.”