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NASCAR Cup Series to race at Nashville Superspeedway in 2021

NASCAR and Dover Motorsports Inc. announced Wednesday that Nashville Superspeedway will reopen to host a NASCAR Cup Series race in 2021.

The change will drop Dover International Speedway from two Cup Series races to one event next season. Dover Motorsports Inc. built the 1.33-mile concrete track in Lebanon, Tennessee, about a 40-minute drive from downtown Nashville.

“Thanks to the collaboration of Dover Motorsports and our broadcast partners, we are excited to bring NASCAR racing back to Nashville, a place where the passion for our sport runs deep,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said in a release. “The Nashville market is a vital one for our sport, and bringing NASCAR Cup Series racing to Nashville Superspeedway will be an integral building block in helping us further deliver on our promise in creating a dynamic schedule for 2021.”

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Dates for the new Nashville event and Dover’s race weekend were not announced. Ben Kennedy, NASCAR vice president of racing development, said further announcements regarding the full 2021 schedule were still to be announced.

The move follows NASCAR’s recent rekindling of its relationship with the Music City, which played host to the NASCAR Awards banquet and Champion’s Week activities last December. Nashville Superspeedway hosted NASCAR, ARCA and IndyCar events during its operation from 2001-11, and the .596-mile Nashville Fairgrounds track was a fixture on the Cup Series schedule from 1958-84, with other NASCAR national tours running there until 2000.

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Since its last NASCAR event in 2011, the Nashville Superspeedway has sat idle except for occasional rentals for stock-car driving experiences or for car storage by Nissan, which has an assembly plant located in nearby Smyrna, Tennessee. Panattoni Development Company purchased a 147-acre portion of the 1,250-acre speedway grounds in 2018 with plans to redevelop the land for industrial use. The group exercised an option to buy an additional 132 acres last June. Neither land parcel included the track or its seating.

Denis McGlynn, president and COO of Dover Motorsports, said in a Wednesday afternoon teleconference the speedway is “in great shape” and the company planned to spend $8-10 million during the next two years to bring the 1.33-mile track back into operation. Those expenditures include refurbishing the track’s buildings, updating the infrastructure and replacing some SAFER barrier that was taken for use at the Dover track.

McGlynn said grandstand capacity at Nashville Superspeedway is 25,000, a figure that could double with the addition of temporary seating.

“I say that because maybe some of the things we want to do we won’t be able to get it done in one year,” McGlynn said of the two-year time frame for renovations. “We may have to stretch it out. In any case it’s very close to being ready. I think we’ll be up and running in first-class fashion come next June.”

The Fairgrounds board and Nashville city officials had been working on proposals to bring NASCAR racing back to the historic half-mile layout, with Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and parent company Speedway Motorsports, Inc., proposing a $60 million renovation plan and acting as go-betweens in negotiations. But disputes over how the property will be used for construction of a Major League Soccer stadium adjacent to the track have slowed progress on infrastructure plans and track improvements.

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In a Wednesday morning statement, Marcus Smith — Speedway Motorsports’ president and CEO — indicated the fairgrounds track remained a priority.

“The news that NASCAR will bring a Cup race to Wilson County and the greater Nashville region in 2021 is a positive move for the sport of NASCAR and for NASCAR fans,” Smith said. “In recent years, we’ve made it very clear that we think Nashville is a place where NASCAR should be for the future and not just the past. Our efforts to work with state and local government officials to revive the historic Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway will continue. We believe that the beloved short track in downtown Nashville provides tremendous opportunity to be a catalyst for year-round tourism and entertainment development.”

Kennedy said the channels of communication remain open between NASCAR and SMI regarding the fairgrounds venue.

“Know they’ve certainly been very close to the project over the past few months,” Kennedy said. “It’s an important track for us on the ARCA side as well.  We’ll certainly stay in touch with them as things move along and continue to support them there.”

Dover International Speedway has hosted 100 Cup Series events since it opened in 1969, and the 1-mile Delaware track has had two annual dates on the premier series schedule since 1971.

“Our company is excited about the terrific opportunity to not only host a NASCAR Cup Series race weekend but opening our Nashville facility will enable us to host other exciting forms of racing and entertainment options,” said Mike Tatoian, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Dover Motorsports, Inc. “We are also proud that our long history with NASCAR will continue at the ‘Monster Mile’ in 2021, and we also look forward to hosting the 9th Firefly Music Festival next summer.”

McGlynn said even though the COVID-19 outbreak had postponed its May NASCAR event, Dover may still hold two Cup Series races this year in a single weekend. A revised remainder of the 2020 NASCAR schedule has not been released, but Dover was originally set for a tripleheader weekend Aug. 21-23 with the Cup Series, Xfinity Series and ARCA Menard Series East at the “Monster Mile.”