Better Sooner Than Later

This past Tuesday, I heard the news I had been dreading for the past few months. No, I’m not getting laid off from my job or anything like that. But being an IndyCar fan here in Music City, I knew that Tuesday’s news was likely.

In case you haven’t heard, the proposed street race around Nissan Stadium has had the plug pulled just a few months after it was first mentioned earlier this summer. Needless to say, I’m disappointed…but not surprised.

Some are saying it may be for the best in the long run, but those saying that are comparing it to the Boston debacle from the 2016 IndyCar season. The failure of the Boston Grand Prix was the result of a web of lies and deceit from the promoter. That was not the case here in Nashville. The group spearheading the Grand Prix of Nashville consisted of local business leaders with deep pockets and well-established honorable reputations.

In fact, it was probably due to these business reputations that they decided to pull the plug on the whole idea. They could see it wasn’t feasible at this time and they decided to can the idea, rather than get any further down the road to the point that they might feel like so much had been invested that they might be inclined to force the issue.

But as a longtime Nashville resident and an even longer-term IndyCar fan – I’m disappointed.

I heard mostly negative comments about the proposed race, and I understood their viewpoint. Many that I interacted with on Twitter and Facebook were shocked that I would support a temporary street circuit set up out around an NFL stadium parking lot. My question to them was – if you found out an IndyCar race was possibly going to be run fourteen miles from your house, wouldn’t you want it to happen?

Normally, I would not be in favor of such an event. Parking lot races have been tried before, with not-so-great results. And I drove around the proposed layout around Nissan Stadium. To my uneducated eyes, it did not look racy at all. It was extremely narrow and was a series of ninety-degree turns. It was difficult to see how this would be a good race in person or on television. But as Kevin Lee pointed out on Trackside the other night, one could look at the layout at Long Beach and come to the same conclusion. I don’t think Long Beach makes for great television, but from what I understand – it is a great event to attend for the weekend. I think the Grand Prix of Nashville would have been the same.

Without sounding like the Chamber of Commerce, Nashville is a happening place. There is always something going on. If you watched any of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, when the Nashville Predators made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins; NBC did a great job of showcasing our city. Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators, has earned the title as the busiest concert arena in the US. When the Predators aren’t playing, they are continuously converting the arena over to host a major concert.

Music City doesn’t just refer to country music. You can find any type of live music you are looking for within walking distance of Bridgestone Arena. And just across the Cumberland River is Nissan Stadium, where the proposed IndyCar race was to take place. Both of these venues got their respective names because Nashville is the home of the North American headquarters for Bridgestone/Firestone and Nissan.

I mention all of this to let you know that the racing would be only part of a weekend for whatever visitors that came to Nashville.

But for now it’s not happening, and that’s a shame. Poor attendance was not the reason for the demise of the IndyCar race that took place here from 2001 to 2008 at the 1.33 mile oval at Nashville Superspeedway. You would’ve thought so since that track was almost forty-five miles from downtown Nashville. A bad owner (Dover Motorsports) and an incompetent and clueless track GM (Cliff Hawks) led to its demise. Nashville race fans supported that event, regardless of how far they had to drive.

That’s why I think the Grand Prix of Nashville would have been a great event, even if it was a so-so race. Fans coming to the track would have had a blast – regardless of the not-so-racy track. It would have been well-attended and that part would have looked good on television. But I shudder to think how bad the racing would have looked.

But those putting the event together determined that the scheduling and logistical problems were too great to overcome at this time. I applaud them for having the wisdom and foresight to recognize this now, before things got too far along.

At least now I won’t be in the unenviable position to constantly defend what probably would not be a good race to watch on television, simply for my own selfish reasons. While I wish I had a local race to attend in my hometown in 2019, it’s probably best that they realized they needed to pull the plug on it sooner than later.

George Phillips

3 Responses to “Better Sooner Than Later”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    There are few things better than waking up in your own bed at a decent hour, driving less than an hour to the race track, taking in a full day of racing action, and then going back to bed in your own home. It’s just great, even if the track you are going to isn’t.

    I enjoyed every minute of 8 Grand Prixs (Grands Prix?) of Houston, even though neither track was especially well-received (though I would argue the racing action there was solid in 2013 and 2014).

    • Can’t beat having a race in your home city. I remember taking a Friday off from work, waking up, walking out my front door jumping on my bicycle and riding a 4-5 miles to the track when CART raced here in Denver. Given the climate in this city now it will probably never happen again. I made the best of it when it was here and will remember it forever.

  2. Oh well, maybe good things are happening inside the stadium? And the hockey season has begun.

    There was a time when we lived in a small house two blocks from the Milwaukee Mile. We sold parking spaces on our lawn. We had a life-size standup of Tony Bettenhausen with that flying red horse on his uniform as I recall. To be awakened by the sound of those Offys was heaven.

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