The trials and tribulations of short track racing are many, and the famed Nashville Fairgrounds track is no exception. The 2008 season represents the 50th anniversary of NASCAR sanctioned racing at the historic 5/8-mile paved oval. In early March, the Tennessee State Fair Board of Commissioners voted to extend the lease agreement with the current management to December 2009. This secured the future of the banked oval that first saw racing action in 1904, when it was all dirt, making it one of the oldest venues in American motorsports.


Modern Day Trials
The track was renamed Music City Motorplex for the 2004 season by track promoter Joe Mattioli, whose family owns both Pocono Raceway and South Boston Speedway. Before the new agreement through 2009 was put in place, the possibility existed that 2008 could have been the end of the historic track. The lease was due to be up in October of this year. The three options were for the Fair Board to demolish the track and use the land for other purposes, sell the land and move the fairgrounds and the racetrack to a non-urban area of Davidson County, or continue to lease the track.

The Nashville State Fairgrounds Fairboard merely wants the fairgrounds to turn a profit, and rumors of closure have persisted over the last few years at Nashville. Those rumors have been fueled for the most part due to local neighborhood organizations complaining about noise from the track. Therefore, facing that pressure, the Fairboard has hired a consultant to evaluate the best uses for the entire grounds, including the racetrack. This sparked the notion that the consultant could possibly find a better use for the fairgrounds and do away with the track.

Cost is a factor with any business venture, and this is especially true with a racetrack. Besides one of the most significant expenses-insurance-there are utilities, staff salaries, race purses, facility upkeep, and so on. There are two basic figures to help determine a break-even point for any track. Those are race fans in the seats and racers on the track. To make it all come together these two factors must be rewarded. For the race fan it is the balance of affordability and bang for the entertainment dollar, while the racer looks for the balance of good rules, which affect cost, and purse payout.

Fan support at Nashville has been on the upswing over the past four years. The best strategy of getting families in the seats is to first tell them where you are located and what you do. The second component is to make the venue family friendly. Then make it affordable. You've also got to have a great show and get spectators out of the racetrack at a decent hour. Nashville is a master of the four hour show, not letting it drag into the late hours of the night. Being in Nashville, the track faces a lot of competition for the entertainment dollar. But at only $10 for an adult admission ticket, races at Nashville are considered a value.

"I've always said this place has the best short track drivers in the country and we put on the best racing show in the country," says David Underwood, track director. "Even when I was a kid sitting in the grandstands I realized this. There is not a bad seat in the house."

The best of the best have toured the banked facility, including Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, and Geoff Bodine. Even in those first races of 1904, one of the entrants was racing pioneer and Indy 500 guru Barney Oldfield.

Fueled by car counts on the rise, this season is on the way to becoming yet another great year for Nashville. Some have speculated that this will be the best in several years. The track supports three weekly divisions for NASCAR regional and track points. Headed up first by the NASCAR Late Models, both the Super Trucks and Street Stocks help fill out the weekly program.