The big white elephant squatting in the weeds in Gladeville has a new owner.
Nashville Superspeedway -- Dover Motorsports’ Field of Nightmares -- has been sold.
That’s the question racing fans in Middle Tennessee are asking in the wake of last week’s announced track takeover by a technology-innovation company called NeXovation.
The 1.3-mile racetrack, located on the Wilson County/Rutheford County line, hasn’t had a motor fired in anger in three years. Dover suspended racing because it wasn’t drawing flies. Attendance was anemic for the opener in 2001, and steadily grew worse.
It was a failed Field of Dreams: they built it, but they didn’t come.
So now the question: If Dover, with its five decades of NASCAR experience and expertise, couldn’t make a go of it, what makes newcomer NeXovation think it can?
That’s the question I’d like to ask NeXovation CEO Robert Sexton. However, a PR person says the boss won’t be available to discuss his plans for the joint until a late-July press conference.
Some guy shells out a reported $45 million for a new toy without any idea about what he plans to do with it?
Pardon me if my cynicism is showing.
The Great Superspeedway Switcheroo comes on the 30th anniversary of the darkest day in area racing history. In 1984 NASCAR yanked its two annual Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) races from Fairgrounds Speedway.
Ever since then, fans have been jerked around with big talk, big plans, big promises.
When Dover opened the Superspeedway in 2001, some smugly assumed that a Cup race was on the way. But that never happened. As I reported at the time -- based on high NASCAR sources -- it never had a prayer of happening.
Today the track’s odds of getting a Cup race are longer than ever.
The Superspeedway wobbled along with second-tier NASCAR Nationwide races and third-tier truck races, along with an annual Indy Racing League race. But Indy bailed after eight years, and the minor league NASCAR events failed to draw.
Why didn’t they? My theory is that savvy area race fans are interested only in big-league races. Sprint Cup or nothing. TV ratings support that theory; Cup races consistently beat every other pro sport in the Middle Tennessee market except for the NFL.
Dover didn’t mis-read the demographics; there are oodles of race fans here. But what Dover didn’t realize -- and what doomed the track -- is that they’re mostly Cup fans.
My Murfreesboro racing buddy Don Christopher is Exhibit One. Don traveled to Daytona and Talladega with me for over 30 years (I listed him on my expense accounts as “technical advisor”). Don is a die-hard race fan. But only for Cup races.
He lives just a few miles from the Superspeedway, but has never set foot on the place. He’s not interested in second- and third-string races. He says call him when a Cup race comes to town.
What Dover didn’t realize is, there are thousands of Dons out there.
It has been speculated that the new owner might develop a drag strip, dirt track and short track that were in Dover’s original plans. Could they draw enough fans to warrant a $45 million investment? Maybe. That could become the 45-Million-Dollar Question.
Other speculation is that the track will be utilized for automotive performance testing by the numerous auto manufacturing plants located in Middle Tennessee. In other words, the facility would be turned into a glorified automotive industrial park.
Or perhaps it could be used as concert venue or for other entertainment events.
Again, maybe. I don’t know about any of that stuff. But I do know something about auto racing, and I know that Dover gave it its best shot for 11 years and couldn’t make it work.
What makes the new guy think he can do better? He’s not saying.