Fairgounds speedway ‘not dead yet’

Sunday, June 27, 2010 at 11:45pm

The obit had been published, “Taps” had been played, and fond goodbyes had been said.

Now it turns out that Fairgrounds Speedway is not dead after all. Not quite.

Former driver Tony Formosa, whose family has raced there for most of the track’s 52 years, is desperately working to keep the wheezing old facility on life support. Formosa has arranged to run five weekends of racing there this year, starting with last weekend’s Frank Kimmel Street Stock Nationals.

“We won’t give up without a fight,” said Formosa, who believes there is hope for Nashville’s longest-running pro sport despite Mayor Karl Dean’s edict earlier this year to close the fairgrounds and redevelop the property.

“This track has meant too much to too many people for so long to just throw it all away,” Formosa said.

Formosa is playing for time, hoping for a shift in sentiment that could save not only the track but also other traditional fairgrounds events.

“More people use this place than use a lot of other Metro facilities,” Formosa said, “and at much less cost to the taxpayers.”

The racetrack continues to draw neighborhood noise complaints — even though the engines first fired up over a half-century ago — and the mayor believes the site can be better used for something other than stock car racing, the State Fair, flea markets and other long-running events. What that something is has yet to be determined, however.

Formosa has faced an uphill battle, not just against City Hall but also Mother Nature.

The devastating floods wiped out his scheduled opener the first weekend in May. (Browns Creek flows through the floodplain property, making commercial development risky.)

Since the floodwater subsided, Formosa spent significant time with cleanup and repairs in preparation for the rescheduled opener. A schedule of events, times and ticket information is posted on the track website, fairgroundsspeedwaynashville.com.

Formosa’s late father was a team owner who worked with 21 track champions in various divisions over the years. His brother Nicky was one of those champions. Tony also was a top driver for many years, although he never won a championship.

Several prominent area drivers who got their start at the fairgrounds are supporting the effort to save the track, including Fox Sports commentator Darrell Waltrip and two-time Daytona 500 champion Sterling Marlin.

Marlin, a Titans fan, said he’s not opposed to progress, “but we can grow without sacrificing our history and heritage. I enjoy going to a Titans game on Sunday, but I also like to go to the racetrack on Saturday night. There’s no reason why we can’t have both.”

Formosa knows the reprieve is temporary, and that this abbreviated summer of racing could be the last in a town that once ranked with Daytona on the NASCAR map.

“We’ll do all we can to try to save it,” he said. “It’s like they say: Where there’s life there’s hope, and racing’s not dead yet.”

10 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 6/28/10 at 3:29

Dean probably has a deal done already unless he is stopped. and he should be stopped.

By: Kosh III on 6/28/10 at 7:52

"What that something is has yet to be determined, however."

You mean that the replacement use has not been announced. I am sure that Dean has already got a deal with HCA or another big contributor.

By: 117_acres on 6/28/10 at 8:26

Idgaf and Kosh III, once again for the people who rode the short bus to school Mayor Dean inherited the issues with the fairgrounds property. This discussion began at or around three (3) years before he was even elected. He was elected by the registered voters (the people) of Davidson County not Sumner County, Maury County (Where Sterling Marlin lives), Williamson County (Where DW lives) or some other surrounding county. He is the leader of Davidson County and he is doing what is was elected by the people to do and that is to lead.

The City paper should make Larry Woody retract his statement regarding the flooding and developing of the fairgrounds because it is inaccurate as well as a misrepresentation. When did Mr. Woody become an expert on construction, developing properties, and flood plains? The only structural area to flood at the fairgrounds was inside the oval of the racetrack. None of the buildings on top of the hill were flooded nor were they of any danger of flooding. I would imagine interested developers are aware that a significant portion of the property around Browns Creek will have to be green space that can be used for multiple things.

Larry Woody should consider writing a story to see if the City has collected the $25,000 plus in back rent from the previous lessee and whether or not the current lessee is paid up on his rent.

I actually like racing but I know that redeveloping the property is not only good for the neighborhood but also for the City and Middle Tn.

By: NoMusicNoLife on 6/28/10 at 9:24

Mayor Dean is not the problem , the problem has always been pervious greedy track managers. I have lived here my whole life, and never has the noise once bothered me. I am not a HUGE race fan , but I am a fan of letting someone prove that worth to the community. If Mr. Formosa can pull this together, pay the lease on the property, show the Fair Board a profit , and entertain the city of race fans once a week, then let him. This is NOT Karl Deans property , this is OUR property. The track was here long before the Nashville Sounds , The Tennessee Titans , and those residence complaining about the noise. If you don't like the noise , move just as little as 5 miles away. Mr. Formosa and Buck Dozier should be commended for their hard work and willingness to keep racing alive in Nashville .
Mayor , there's plenty of property out on County Hospital Road that needs developing first...start there.

By: bandit59 on 6/28/10 at 10:29

Would have been nice if Mr. Woody would have at least given some numbers on the attendance at the races on Saturday night. I know they were rained out, but I understand there was a very good crowd. I am sure that everyone there either purchased a drink or something to eat and many of them spend money on meals, gas and hotels while they were here.

By: airvols on 6/28/10 at 10:29

Get rid of this eyesore once and for all, stop giving them permits to race and bulldoze the thing!

By: jimmie on 6/28/10 at 12:52

Not sure why Mayor Dean's brother in law Joe Davis was there but he needs a drug test ASAP. I saw this moron cussing fans who were waiting in line to enter the track dropping the F bomb like a sailor, saying he was going to close the place down. I don't care who your sister got elected to mayor, you need a reality check.....


By: stitch12 on 6/28/10 at 6:08

Long time waited, but what a thrill!!! There is nothing more fun and exciting than spending Saturday night at the race track. I look forward to July 17th. After all these years, I still get goose bumps when that green flag flies. Where can you get that much fun for $10.00.
There was so many people there and so many children. This is a great family oriented, easy on the pocket entertainment. I enjoyed the rock band too. The kids really loved it. I am not the one that counts the tickets, only a visual estimate, but I would guess there were 8 - 9,000 or more in attendance. I was surprised since I didn't see any advertisement, only word of mouth.
At least this time it was Mother Nature, rather than our Mayor, that shorten our fun. I haven't seen that much rain since May 2nd. And the thunder was much louder than the cars. As the hard rain continued, I saw the back tunnel flooded and I thought of all the thousands of school buses that are parked along the fence behind the track. Oh what that would cost us to replace a fleet of flooded school buses. I do sometimes wonder where the Mayor plans to park those buses if he sells OUR property.
I heard there were several Fair Board members and several council members there and I personally saw Buck Dozier. They may be just "yes man" people, but I hope they tell the Mayor, the truth, that they saw a lot of families having a lot of fun, and tell his brother in law that it is not nice to be drunk and cursing in front of so many children.
Thank You Tony for believing and giving family entertainment for the working people. Thank You Larry Woody for just being there. No one knows the sport any better than you. We love your wit and eloquent words. And to the volunteers that are helping us to convince our city fathers that good leadership come from listening.
I circled my calendar and I'll bring the kids for a fun night at the races, July 17th. Don't knock it if you haven't tried it. Join us and have fun!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/29/10 at 2:14

By: airvols on 6/28/10 at 11:29
Get rid of this eyesore once and for all, stop giving them permits to race and bulldoze the thing!

i second that!

By: jimmie on 6/29/10 at 3:51

10,000 fans showed up to keep it, And just 3 of you oppose. Sorry but numerous Metro council members where there to see it and talk to those first hand. From the conversations with them Ya'll are done.

Smoke another doobie, the place isn't going away.