Marcus Smith on the 2020 NASCAR schedule, Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville and the 2019 NASCAR rules package
Short track racing has become all but absent in the highest level of stock car racing. A series that came to be on the short tracks of the South have gone a very different direction in the last 20 years.
The fans have taken notice. As NASCAR attendance decreases, multiple national series for short track racing have seen an increase in attendance. The hardcore race fans have found alternatives.
2020 is a big year for NASCAR. It’s a date that’s been discussed for years.
Why is 2020 important? That’s the year that a bulk of lengthy track contracts expire with NASCAR.
Currently, NASCAR is limited on how they can adjust the schedule. It can certainly see drastic changes at any year. But, until contracts expire, it’s up to the track owners to make those changes.
In 2021, NASCAR can blow the whole thing up on their own. The 2021 schedule will obviously be released in 2020. So, that’s the earliest that we’ll see the announcement of changes.
Marcus Smith talks the NASCAR schedule
Marcus Smith is the president and chief operating officer and director of Speedway Motorports, Inc. They operate eight active tracks on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
“I don’t think tremendous things need to change in the schedule to make fantastic things happen,” Smith, CEO of SMI, said during a Charlotte Motor Speedway media event on Monday.
“There are opportunities with the new schedule.”
“I think there are all sorts of ideas, and you always like to think about different ideas and not be constrained by the box you’re in, think creativity,” Smith stated of the 2020 NASCAR schedule.
“The thing I think will be encouraging for race fans out there is that everybody involved wants to do something that is fantastic for racing. Wherever we end up will be something that is great for racing and NASCAR and race fans.”
“Ideas, when you’re starting, it’s sort of like a chef trying to come up with a new recipe,” Smith said. “You’ve got to taste it a few times before you serve it at the restaurant.
“I think we have a lot of great ideas, a lot of potential, but I am way, way, way more excited about the racing we’ll see this year. I think that the No. 1 thing for all of us is the racing.
“Where a good race is doesn’t matter as much as how good the race is. If it’s a great race, race fans will love it.”
Marcus Smith of the 2019 NASCAR rules package
“But the biggest thing that we have coming up that I am most excited about is the racing this year. I think that what we started with the All-Star Race in 2018 really sowed some great seeds for racing package for 2019,” Smith continued.
NASCAR has increased downforce and reduced horsepower. The entire idea is to slow the cars down. Slower is better? It is.
NASCAR’s goal is to bring the speeds back to the speeds of 1990. What does that do? It lessens the importance of clean air. The faster they go, the more important air becomes and the more we see the aero push. By slowing them down, the racing will be better.
Related: 2019 NASCAR rules announced
“I can’t wait for that package to hit the track. Daytona is going to be fantastic, then Atlanta and Las Vegas I think are going to be really great. That will play into how we think about the years going forward,” Smith concluded of the 2019 NASCAR rules package.
Marcus Smith on Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville
Speedway Motorsports Inc has been active in attempting to bring NASCAR back to Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. In the past, the NASCAR Cup Series has run 42 races at the Tennessee track. The last race was won by Geoffrey Bodine in 1984.
Last year, SMI offered a bid to lease the half-mile speedway through their Bristol Motor Speedway subsidiary. They lost as the track went to longtime promoter Tony Formosa via Formosa Productions.
However, SMI continued to try and strike a deal. Recently, Formosa and Speedway Motorsports Inc struck a deal to bring NASCAR back to the track.
What’s the update on NASCAR at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville?
“We’re continuing to speak to leaders in the city, to work towards the goal of being able to bring racing, NASCAR back to Nashville,” Smith said.
“It’s fairly complicated, lots of people involved, lots of different parties involved. It’s a goal of ours, and I think it would be fantastic for the sport.”
The track broke ground in 1904. The 115 year old facility has obviously seen many upgrades over the years. However, more would need to be done to bring it to NASCAR standards.
In terms of safety alone, NASCAR requires a medical center and a helipad. Then, every asphalt track on the current schedule features a safer barrier.
There’s a lot of construction needed at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Because of that, Smith says 2021 “would probably be the soonest” that NASCAR could return.
“We have a really good idea of what it would take to get it NASCAR ready,” Smith said. “There’s a wide range of what you could do.”
“There’s a minimal level and there’s our level, so I think there’s tremendous potential for that facility. It’s a legendary facility in the world of racing, Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, and it also serves as the location for the state fair, for regular community activities.”
“My vision would be something that would serve all those purposes for the next 50 years,” Smith concluded.