The Nashville Fair Board Commissioners approved an agreement with Bristol Motor Speedway to operate Fairgrounds Speedway by a 3-2 vote, moving the prospect of NASCAR racing at the historic track closer to reality.

The proposal still must be approved by the Metro Council before the Metro Sports Authority can do so.

The proposal must have three readings, which includes a public hearing, in Metro Council before it can be approved. The first reading is expected in April. The second reading, which will include the public hearing, is expected to be in May. The final reading could be pushed back to July because Metro Council has a period where it must focus solely on the budget.

“We are thankful to the Nashville Fair Board for supporting the vision to restore the historic Fairgrounds Speedway,” said Jerry Caldwell, president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway in a statement. “They invested a lot of time vetting this opportunity, and we agree it provides a financially responsible future for the speedway while shifting the risk off taxpayers to a private operator, and completes the restoration of the Fairgrounds with improvements like a state-of-the-art sound-reduction wall that benefits the surrounding neighborhoods.

“We look forward to working with the Metro Council in the weeks ahead and believe that they also will agree that this is a smart plan for the future of the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.”

Nashville mayor John Cooper signed a letter of intent in March 2021 between the city and Bristol Motor Speedway to operate Fairgrounds Speedway.

Mayor Cooper announced Nov. 30, 2021, that he had agreed in principle with Bristol Motor Speedway on a proposal to revitalize Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, which dates to 1904 and hosted at least one Cup race a year from 1958-84. Among those who won there are Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip.

The deal called for Bristol Motor Speedway to lease, manage and operate Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway for a 30-year term. Bristol would be responsible for installing state-of-the-art sound mitigation to help reduce the noise in the surrounding neighborhoods. The track’s grandstand would be rebuilt to seat approximately 30,000 fans.

Bristol will pay a base rent of at least $1 million per year for use of the Fairgrounds Speedway.

The summary of the deal terms states: “Bristol will hold a NASCAR Cup Race at least every other year throughout the lease agreement and has agreed to make up any deficits in pledged revenues in order to ensure the bond payments are met in the event a race is not held as anticipated.”

No timetable has been given on how long it will take to compete the renovation projects and have the track ready to host NASCAR racing.

Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway
Artist rendering of a renovated Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. Photo: Bristol Motor Speedway

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said last November that series officials plan to continue to make changes to the schedule. The 2023 schedule was not revealed until Sept. 14, 2022. If NASCAR follows that same timetable, it would have about six months before the 2024 schedule is released.

Bristol Motor Speedway has expressed interest in the Fairgrounds Speedway for more than five years. Bristol Motor Speedway confirmed in August 2017 that it had submitted a proposal to manage Fairgrounds Speedway. It lost that bid.

A proposal by Bristol Motor Speedway to renovate Fairgrounds Speedway was submitted in May 2019.

NASCAR has raced the past two years at Nashville Superspeedway. That track is located in Lebanon, Tennessee, about 35 miles from downtown Nashville. NASCAR has a four-year contract with the track.


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