Seas of empty seats had spelled trouble for Nashville Superspeeday since it opened in 2001, and on Wednesday parent company Dover Motorsports announced it is giving up.
The company issued a statement saying it will seek no NASCAR races next year and will “evaluate all options for the track, including its possible sale.”
The announcement could sound the death-knell for professional automobile racing in Middle Tennessee, a fixture for over a half-century.
Should Dover sell the track, it is possible that the new owner could pursue future NASCAR races, although that failed to happen when Dover folded its tracks in Memphis and St. Louis. If the track is not sold, apparently it will be simply shut down.
“We have some extremely dedicated and talented employees who have made this track a great destination, but the reality is, after 10 years of effort, we have to face the fact that without a Sprint Cup race and/or a significant change in the operating model for other events, we simply cannot continue,” Cliff Hawks, who has served as vice president/general manager of the track since it opened, said.
Hawks will stay on for an unspecified period to “assist with transition issues.”
“We deeply appreciate all the hard work that our employees have put into making Nashville Superspeedway such a remarkable facility,” Denis McGlynn, President and CEO of Dover Motorsports, said. “We have had years of unrelenting support from state, county and local officials and from the racing community.
“We are, however, at a juncture where we must evaluate all our options for this track, including its possible sale.”
The facility is situated on approximately 1,400 acres, and the track’s 1.3-mile concrete surface makes it unique on the NASCAR circuit. It is lighted for night racing and overall is considered a state-of-the-art facility.
However, the racing has never been especially exciting and fans have not turned out as anticipated.
When the track opened it had 25,000 permanent grandstand seats and 25,000 temporary bleachers. When the inaugural event failed to sell out, most of the temporary bleachers were dismantled. Attendance has continued to decline, with perhaps 10,000 on hand for the last race on July 23.
The track was dealt a major blow when the Indy Racing League severed its relationship following the 2008 season. For eight seasons (2001-08) the annual IRL race had been the track’s highlight event with such star attractions as Danica Patrick and Helio Castroneves. The IRL races drew crowds of around 20,000.
Once the IRL departed, the track was left with only Nationwide and truck races – second- and third-tier NASCAR events. The past two seasons the Superspeedway hosted two weekend Nationwide/truck doubleheaders, neither of which drew well.
When Dover built the track it had plans for a road course, a dirt track, a paved short track and a drag strip. It also had in place plans to build a Sprint Cup garage and expand grandstand seating to over 100,000.
However, a sale economy combined with disappointing attendance prompted Dover to postpone everything except the main track and an infield road course.
Most observers remain convinced that if the track could have landed a premier NASCAR Sprint Cup race it could have been a huge success. But as prospects of a Cup race gradually faded over the years, so did the track’s future.