Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

IndyCar Season Finale Shifts to Nashville Superspeedway for 2024

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

For the past three years, the NTT IndyCar Series has had a footprint in and around downtown Nashville, with the 2024 running of the Music City Grand Prix playing host to the season finale on a new course that would have brought more of the downtown city streets into play – including a stretch of Broadway.

However, those plans were turned on their head on Wednesday when race organizers and IndyCar officials announced that the race would not be held downtown, but instead outside the city in Lebanon, Tenn. at Nashville Superspeedway.

The 1.33-mile concrete oval is no stranger to hosting IndyCar Series races, with the series running at the track from 2001 to 2008. After being shuttered for many years, the track was revived in 2021 to host the NASCAR Cup Series and now adds IndyCar back to its portfolio for 2024.

With the move to Nashville Superspeedway, IndyCar will have its first finale on an oval since the 2014 season, when the season concluded at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. It also means that six of the last eight races of the season will be run on ovals, joining Iowa, Gateway, and Milwaukee.

Scott Borchetta, who founded and co-owns the Big Machine music label in Nashville, recently took over operations of the Music City Grand Prix and after consulting with series officials and officials in the City of Nashville determined that the plan to race through downtown would be untenable for this year’s season finale.

“While there was an awareness going into the ’24 race of some of the things that we would not have available to us, once we really started digging down over the last seven, eight weeks and trying to understand how we could make the new footprint work, because we would come back across the bridge, for those of you familiar with downtown, go up 1st Street, left up Broadway, left across 4th Avenue, over to Korean Veterans and then back across the bridge.

“Within that, we flat don’t have all the lots that we need to house the teams. We don’t have room for team hospitality. We don’t have a very specific answer from the NFL in regard to a Titans home game that could be on September 15th,” Borchetta explained.

“Now, if we had started a year ago on all of this stuff, which I was not in a leadership position, I was simply the sponsor at that point, some of these things could have been addressed.

“You might say, well, Scott, it’s not for eight months. Eight months is nothing with all the things that have to be done for a street race. I think all of you are very experienced in this space and know that.

“The last thing we were doing going to do on my watch is fail, and that means fail to have an INDYCAR race in Nashville when we’ve had that luxury to be able to do so.”

Borchetta added that once it became clear that the downtown Nashville plan was not going to work for this year, they turned to Marcus Smith, SMI, and Nashville Superspeedway for their input and the easiest path forward became to simply move the race out to the oval.

Despite the track being well outside the city limits of Nashville proper, he noted that he is confident they will be able to keep up the momentum built from the past three years in the Music City.

“Once we got to that decision, I went and met with Marcus Smith at SMI who’s a dear friend, and obviously I’m part of the team trying to bring NASCAR back to the fairgrounds here in Nashville, and he was ecstatic at the thought of bringing INDYCAR back to the oval,” said Borchetta.

“For those of you who attended back in the day, and I attended all those races, you may remember that the INDYCAR races were the best draw of all of them. We didn’t have a Cup race, but we had a Busch race, we had a truck race, et cetera. The INDYCARs always did the best. Some spectacular races there.”

Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment, added that the intent is to eventually return to downtown in some shape or form, but given the move to the oval, the news has been received kindly by both drivers and fans in the short time since it was announced.

“The intent, the pivotal thing is that this is a Nashville event, even if the racing isn’t downtown right now,” Miles said. “That is eventually the intent and the vision for the event, but with Scott’s leadership and all of us pulling on the same oar, I think we have phenomenal racing on the oval and at the same time have one amazing party weekend and take advantage of all that Nashville has to offer.

“I will say given that this has gotten out a little bit, I’m really gratified by the response so far. I did speak to a number of drivers before this media event. To the person, they’d kind of absorb it and go, the finale is going to be on an oval? Really good enthusiasm for that fact, and fans have responded largely similarly.

“Fans to some extent I saw responses which were sort of, okay, it’s different, now let’s rally behind it and make it a great Nashville event, so we feel really good about the early reception to this news.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.