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THE FULL MONTY: Who's blame for Nashville Superspeedway failure?

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The sun has set on Nashville Superspeedway.
The sun has set on Nashville Superspeedway.

By Lee Montgomery
Editor/NNSracing.com

There is plenty of blame to go around for the failure of another Dover Motorsports track, Nashville Superspeedway.

From Dover Motorsports corporate to the people who ran Nashville to NASCAR to the fans in Middle Tennessee to the poor U.S. economy - all share in the downfall of the 1.33-mile track.

And in looking at the bigger picture, the NASCAR Nationwide Series suffers yet another blow. 

Let's start with why Nashville is closing after only 10 years in business:

Dover Motorsports

The publicly traded company is notoriously, well, tight when it comes to spending money. Like a lot of corporations in recent years, they decided to save some money by cutting back on staff. And as everyone knows, when quality people are taken away, the product suffers.

The product suffered at Memphis Motorsports Park, then Gateway International Raceway and finally Nashville Superspeedway. That makes Dover Motorsports 0-for-3 when it comes to Nationwide standalone tracks, and that clearly is not a good record.

The bottom line for Dover Motorsports was the bottom line. Anything that interfered with that was, well, eliminated. Could Dover have done better? Of course.

Nashville Superspeedway

I covered my first Nationwide race at Nashville in 2006, and ever since, heard many of the same complaints. Drivers and teams couldn't understand why the management of the track didn't do more to promote them and the races there.

Nashville officials weren't helped, of course, by the odd location of the track. It's not anywhere close to Nashville, making an easy excuse for Nashville residents to say it's too far to go.

But that's no excuse for the lack of promotion. Many of the teams stay in nearby Lebanon, Tenn., and I heard more than once from merchants there, "Is there a race this weekend?" Shameful.

Maybe Nashville couldn't spend the money because Dover wouldn't let them. But that's no excuse, either.

Middle Tennessee race fans

Despite the problems of location and promotion, fans in the area bear some of the blame, too. If you want to keep a race in your area, go to the race track! But they stayed away in droves the last several years.

The crowds in Nashville became a running joke in the sport, as the 25,000-seat grandstands were never more than half full over the last couple of years. And 12,500 people for a Nationwide race is awful.

I've heard some say that when Nashville fans realized they'd never get a Sprint Cup race, they stopped going. Not sure who's to blame for that, but that's a sorry excuse, too. True race fans like racing of all types, don't they?

U.S. economy

Many U.S. companies stopped spending advertising money when the economy made a turn for the worse, and that clearly hurt NASCAR, its teams, drivers and tracks. The April race in Nashville hasn't had a sponsor since 2008, hurting revenue streams for the track.

NASCAR

Ah, yes, NASCAR. It's easy to blame the sanctioning body for the troubles of the sport, and in this case, they're ripe for the picking.

For starters, NASCAR charges tracks way too much money to sanction a Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series race. It shouldn't be dirt cheap, but I'd be willing to bet if NASCAR chopped 25 percent of its sanction fee, some of these tracks might still be around.

NASCAR has continued to insist that there's nothing wrong with the series, but there are now four tracks - including Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis - that would disagree. And there are plenty of teams that aren't around any more that would argue, too.

Let's face it, it's simply way too expensive to race in the Nationwide Series. Will we ever go back to racing at Hickory, Myrtle Beach and South Boston? No, but a step backwards might be warranted in this case.

The series needs more standalone races, not less. But the way it looks now, there very well may be two standalone tracks next year, Iowa Speedway and Road America, as there appears to be problems in Montreal.

And NASCAR is supposed to be giving the Nationwide Series its own identity? Sure doesn't look that way. 

Give NASCAR credit for changing the points standings to eliminate Cup drivers winning the Nationwide championship. But that was too small a step.

Then there is the culture of the Nationwide Series. I remember going to Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, N.C. many years ago to watch a Busch Series race. I was excited to watch those races, even though they weren't Cup drivers.

Seems there's now something wrong with "only" Nationwide Series drivers - or a track that "only" hosts Nationwide races. It's nice to shoot for the top and want a Cup race, but fans at some tracks need to be satisfied with a Nationwide race (take a hint, Iowa Speedway). 

 

One last thing that has hurt Nashville - as well as many other non-Cup tracks: The elimination of testing. Tracks like Nashville made money off Cup teams testing there, but NASCAR decided to save teams money by halting that practice a few years ago - and cut off another revenue stream for Nashville, Gateway, Memphis, etc.

Too late to change that now.