- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Nashville Superspeedway back in Cup hunt
Apr 30, 2004 12:00 am
Wilson County's racetrack is back in the middle of the latest NASCAR industry guessing game about where new Nextel Cup races might land.
In the heart of NASCAR's business community – North Carolina – a Monday article in the Winston Salem Journal referred to Nashville and Kentucky's new racing facilities as being "closely watched" as contenders in future schedule realignment.
A report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram indicated substantial shuffling of dates will come as a result of a supposedly forthcoming settlement of a lawsuit in which NASCAR is a defendant.
That report did not mention Nashville as a factor in those talks, however, the North Carolina article is the result of recent industry insider buzz about the possibility of the Nashville Superspeedway landing a new Cup date.
This comes despite the tracks' location in the race-saturated South, something seen as a disadvantage by many since NASCAR has been vocal in its intent to grow the sport into markets outside the region.
Officials with the sport's sanctioning body also have been adamant that it will stick to a schedule of 36 points races during the season, yet there has been growing chatter in racing circles that the schedule could hold as many as 40 dates in the next year.
A more recent theory holds that the schedule will stay at 36 as NASCAR has insisted, but more shuffling will occur among tracks. Yet another concept thrown about has been the addition of Wednesday night Nextel Cup races.
Although any of the theories sound great to Nashville Superspeedway Vice President and General Manager Cliff Hawks if they should include a date here, he reiterated the need for patience among local race fans and deferred ultimate scheduling authority to NASCAR.
"I think from day one, Dover has made it clear that the ultimate goal is to some day land a Nextel Cup date for this facility, but race fans need to be patient because it is not something that happens overnight. I do feel very good about our chances, but I will say the same thing I do every time I am asked this question. We will continue to focus on the events that NASCAR has given us and continue to do everything we can to work hard and impress them when they are here. That could prove to be a successful strategy," Hawks said. "But ultimately, the decision is left up to them and we are respectful of that. We are very careful to make clear that we respect NASCAR and the decisions they have to make. They know what to do and it is not our place to demand certain things from them."
Hawks continued that he thinks it is great to hear about stories that Nashville could be in the mix, because "it means we are on the radar screen and people are certainly becoming aware of what we have here."
Multitudes of different theories have worked their way into print since a lawsuit emerged in 2002 filed by Francis Ferko and later joined by Rusty Vaughn, shareholders in Speedway Motorsports Inc. (a company owning six facilities hosting NASCAR Nextel Cup events) against NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation (a company owning 12 of 23 tracks hosting Cup events) which is owned by NASCAR's founding France family. The suit essentially claims that NASCAR's affiliation with ISC violates federal antitrust laws and that the shareholders have been affected negatively because SMI-owned Texas Motor Speedway has yet to be awarded a second Cup date SMI Chairman Bruton Smith claims was "promised."
Last year, NASCAR unveiled its intentions to begin changing the schedule in what NASCAR Chairman Bill France termed "Realignment 2004 and Beyond" – then lived up to it by working with ISC to shuffle dates affecting three of its facilities this year. ISC announced it would take one date away from Rockingham, N.C.'s North Carolina Speedway, reschedule one of Darlington Speedway's two events and provide a second date for Fontana, Calif.
With the two sides of the suit reportedly in settlement talks, speculation hit a feverish pitch last week after the article appeared in the Fort Worth paper relying on unnamed sources providing details of a coming settlement. According to that article, North Carolina Speedway will lose its remaining date and one date will be taken from Darlington, as Texas gains a second date as well as ISC-owned Phoenix International Raceway. If a settlement is not reached, the case is set to go to trial in July.