Sunday crowd was 40,000-plus
GLADEVILLE – There was action and drama, the weather cooperated, and – most significantly – race-famished fans turned out in droves to celebrate last weekend’s Nashville Superspeedway revival.
Dover Motorsports CEO Michael Tatoian was delighted by the reception given the long-anticipated opener, and said afterwards, “The best is yet to come.”
Tatoian was on hand for the NASCAR tripleheader, and liked what he saw – especially the packed grandstands for Sunday’s Ally 400 Cup feature.
“Overall, it was an amazing weekend for our fans, sponsors, teams, NASCAR and our network partners,” Tatoian said.
“The energy and electricity in the facility was one that I haven’t felt at any sporting event in a long time.”
Tatoian is already excited about next season.
“Our team and extending services worked extraordinarily hard to get us to this point,” he said.
“Our collective job now is to decompress and debrief about the weekend, and began planning for 2022. Without the cloud of Covid, the best is yet to come.”
NASCAR’s second-tier Xfinity race and third-tier truck race drew so-so crowds, as is usually the case at other tracks on the circuit. But the Cup race – the first in Middle Tennessee in 37 years -- had the turnstiles spinning. That was what Dover was counting on.
After an initial 10-year operation, the track suspended operations a decade ago due to anemic turnouts for the lower-division races.
But Dover Motorsports officials were confident that landing a Cup race this season would make the second time a charm.
The company invested approximately $10 million in renovations and improvements for the facility’s coming-out party, and it paid off – every ticket to the Cup race was sold weeks in advance.
The track has 23,000 permanent grandstand seats, and temporary bleachers hold 15,000 more. There were probably two thousand spectators in the luxury suites and trackside, for a total attendance of about 40,000.
At some point Dover is expected to expand the seating, although no specific plan has been announced.
The track has a contract with NASCAR for at least three more annual Cup races, the dates for which have not been announced.
The one glitch in the weekend was traffic and parking snarls, especially prior to Sunday’s race. The start of the race was delayed briefly to allow traffic-delayed fans to reach their seats. Officials promise to work on the problems.
NASCAR is eager to regain a niche in the booming Nashville sports market. In announcing the Superspeedway’s Cup race earlier this year, NASCAR president Steve Phelps said: “The Nashville market is a vital one for our sport.”
Rick Hendrick, whose driver Kyle Larson won Sunday’s race, is sold on the track’s future and the racing atmosphere in the Nashville area.
“I love this place,” said Hendrick, whose 1984 victory at Nashville’s old Fairgrounds Speedway laid the foundation for Hendrick Motorsports’ future record-breaking success.
“If I didn’t live in Charlotte, I’d live here. This is a special place for our sport.”
Unique trophy: In addition to the track’s trademark trophy Gibson guitar, each of the three race winners were presented a second unique trophy that resembled a brick facade with “Music City” in neon lights and a replica of the Grand Ole Opry stage.
The bricks represent Nashville’s historic downtown entertainment district, including the iconic Ryman Auditorium.
Junior promotes Fairgrounds: Dale Earnhardt Jr., a member of NBC’s broadcasting team that called Sunday’s Cup race, was complimentary of the Superspeedway while continuing to promote a NASCAR return to the historic Fairgrounds.
Earnhardt is convinced Nashville can support a Cup race at both tracks, noting that Fairgrounds Speedway for decades ran two annual Cup races.
Speedway Motor Sports Inc. has offered Metro $1 million a year in rent, with a promise to pump millions into facility upgrades and expansion if it is granted the lease.