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Nashville is working to bring NASCAR back to historic Fairgrounds Speedway

Whenever Music City comes up on the NASCAR schedule, texts fly to see who’s spending an extra day or two in town to enjoy all the options.

After another successful race this weekend at Nashville Superspeedway in nearby Lebanon, work continues in the hope of bringing NASCAR back to the area at one of the country’s oldest, most historic tracks: Fairgrounds Speedway, within sight of downtown.

“It has such a special place in motorsports and in this city,” Jerry Caldwell, the president of Bristol Motor Speedway in East Tennesseee, said of the Fairgrounds track. “And one of the many things we think that makes Nashville great is the way they embrace their roots.”

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Elliott has been a longtime advocate of NASCAR returning to the Fairgrounds. He thinks it would be the “best stop on our schedule, hands down,” and he won the 2022 Cup race at the Nashville Superspeedway.

“It’s nice to be in the Nashville market kind of, but it doesn’t hold a candle to what that could be and what it should be,” Elliott said.

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Currently, paint flakes off the Fairgrounds’ cantilevered roof over the grandstands. Concrete stairs are cracked with bolts so loose bleacher seats rock back and forth. Cinder blocks on the end of the grandstands show the strain of age.

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Grandstand of Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway

The grandstand of Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is viewed Friday, June 23, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. NASCAR ran its last Cup Series race at the half-mile oval in 1984, but the lengthy list of drivers wanting this track back on the schedule ranges from Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to current drivers Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Zane Smith. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Asphalt on the track must be repaved, and the tunnel rebuilt and expanded so haulers can access the infield. A sound barrier wall is planned opposite the grandstand with similar material used in the roof to protect residents in the gentrifying neighborhood surrounding the fairgrounds.

The plan must be approved by the Nashville City Council. The agreement involves Nashville issuing $50 million in bonds with Bristol responsible for renovations, upkeep and signing a 30-year contract to lease and manage the track.

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Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway

A safety fence at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is viewed Friday, June 23, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. NASCAR ran its last Cup Series race at the half-mile oval in 1984, but the lengthy list of drivers wanting this track back on the schedule ranges from Hall of Famers Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to current drivers Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Zane Smith.  (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Nashville is racing a clock to finalize the deal. The mayor isn’t running for reelection with a new council being seated later this year.

NASCAR really likes Nashville, moving its awards banquet here in 2019. Dover Motorsports, which built and opened the superspeedway in 2001 in Lebanon — a 36-mile drive east of Nashville — brought the Cup Series racing back to the area in June 2021 by moving one of its two races to the superspeedway.

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Grandstand at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway

The grandstand of Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway is viewed Friday, June 23, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. The speedway needs more than $40 million of renovations to improve safety and operational success at the track according to facility analysis conducted by a motorsports venue consultant.  (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Speedway Motorsports bought Dover in November 2021, and the 1.33-mile concrete track hosted its third Cup race Sunday night. Ross Chastain won for hometown Trackhouse Racing in a sold-out showcase on NBC under the lights.

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