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Winners and Losers

It could be the end of the trail for Nashville Superspeedway.

In racing, the winners and losers aren’t only on the track. Sometimes the facilities themselves experience the thrill of victory when they are awarded a new, big race from a sanctioning body -- or the agony of defeat when they just can’t seem to get the races they need to stay alive. Now it looks as if Nashville Superspeedway, which is operated by Dover Motorsports Inc., might be nearing the final roundup. Track management has notified NASCAR that it will not seek any 2012 race sanctions, which means its days as a NASCAR track are nearly over. The big reason: It has not been able to secure a NASCAR Sprint Cup race that would place it in the big time.

“Nashville is a tremendous market filled with passionate race fans,” says Cliff Hawks, vice president and general manager of Nashville Superspeedway. “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.”

Nashville Superspeedway opened in 2001 and is situated on almost 1,400 acres of land just outside of Nashville, Tenn., on Route 840 (connecting Interstate 40 with Interstate 24). Nashville, of course, is a market large enough to support a National Football League team, and it is the home of Bridgestone and Nissan, two big potential sponsors. But the 1.33-mile concrete superspeedway has not won the favor of NASCAR in getting itself a Sprint Cup race. One issue evidently has been its relatively small seating capacity. It has just 25,000 permanent grandstand seats, though the infrastructure in place can expand to 150,000 seats. In addition, the venue is equipped with lights for nighttime racing, plus foundation work for a dirt track, short track and drag strip. But those additions may never be built. Nashville has a few events left on the schedule for the remainder of 2011 that will not be impacted by the announcement about next year, but track management has floated the idea of selling the track.

“We deeply appreciate all the hard work that our employees have put into making Nashville Superspeedway such a remarkable facility, and Cliff Hawks will remain to assist us with transition issues,” says Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover Motorsports Inc. “We have also had years of unrelenting support from state, county and local officials and from the racing community -- from racing fans and drivers to sponsors, team owners and various sanctioning bodies. We are, however, at a juncture where we must evaluate all of our options for this track, including its possible sale.”

Dover Motorsports will continue to operate Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. But barring a sale, the future of the Nashville track looks dire.