Photo: Walter G. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Previewing the Inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

Sitting dormant since 2011, Nashville Superspeedway will roar back to life this weekend when NASCAR returns for the first time in a decade and brings along the Cup Series to make its debut in Sunday’s running of the Ally 400.

The 1.33-mile concrete track, located on the outskirts of Nashville in Lebanon, Tennessee, is no stranger to hosting NASCAR events with both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR camping World Truck Series running there from 2001 to 2011 before the track was shuttered.

A handful of current Cup Series stars have raced and won at the track, including Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon.

In recent months, talks of bringing NASCAR back to Nashville, more specifically the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, have picked up steam, but when the Cup Series banquet was held in the city in late 2019, talks of reviving Nashville Superspeedway ramped up and led to the track earning a spot on the 2021 schedule as a part of a four-year sanctioning agreement with NASCAR.

“We were energized to see how excited Nashville was to host the NASCAR Cup Series banquet last December,” Denis McGlynn, president & CEO of Dover Motorsports, Inc. said when the race was announced last year. “When we built Nashville Superspeedway in 2001 our goal was to one day secure a NASCAR Cup Series race for the venue. Nashville, central Tennessee and the surrounding market area is filled with passionate race fans. We are thrilled that we were able to collaborate with NASCAR and our television partners to get this done and we can’t wait to put on a great show there in 2021.”

With all of the unknowns that the track brings, the Cup Series drivers and teams will have just one 50-minute practice session on Saturday to dial in their cars before qualifying and racing for 300 laps on Sunday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd.

Nashville also marks the start of the 10-race march toward the end of the regular season and the Playoffs. Thus far, 11 different drivers have won, leaving five Playoff spots up for grabs, with some big names including points leader Denny Hamlin and last year’s regular season champion Kevin Harvick still looking for their first win of the season.

By the Numbers

What: Ally 400, NASCAR Cup Series race No. 17 of 36

Where: Nashville Superspeedway – Lebanon Tennessee (Opened: 2001)

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network, 3:30 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size:  1.333-mile D-shaped concrete oval

Banking: 14 degrees in Turns, 9 degrees on front straightaway, 6 degrees on back straightaway

Race Length: 300 laps (399.9 miles)

Stage Lengths: 90 laps (Stage 1), 95 laps (Stage 2), 115 laps (Final stage)

From the Driver’s Seat

“Nashville (Superspeedway) is kind of its own beast,” said Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. “It’s concrete and fairly flat compared to most other racetracks of similar size. The concrete does have a little bit of a different reaction, as far as however much rubber is laid down and things like that. It definitely took more rubber than I remember when I went back and watched some of the races, so I’m anxious to see if we can get the groove moved up instead of just running the bottom of the racetrack. I think the weather is going to be good this weekend for the opportunity to move around the racetrack, especially with the Trucks, Xfinity and Cup all in the same weekend and the weather looking good.”

“I definitely felt like it was tough to pass. But if you have a really good racecar, I think it shows there. You’re able to run up through the field. You’re able to get out and lead laps. I feel like, for us in one of the races that I watched, we stayed about three-quarters of a second right behind Carl. I could never really get any closer and never really fell any further back. It is a tough place to pass, but I do think with all three series this weekend, the heat, the temperatures, I think the racetrack could widen out and you could see some really good racing.”

From the Broadcast Booth

“It’s such a unique track compared to the Fairgrounds and obviously the street course for the INDYCAR,” NBC Sports announcer Dale Earnhardt, Jr said of the comparison between Nashville Superspeedway, Nashville Fairgrounds, and the IndyCar street race coming in August. “I think the way that — physically they’re all different. They’re all going to provide a different type of entertainment, a different style of race, and I think that the town is big — there’s enough energy and enough entertainment to go around for everybody.

“You know, I think a rising tide lifts all boats kind of thing, and the success from each event is a plus for the rest of them. They each can learn off each other and play off each other, and so I don’t see how it can’t work.

“I think it is pretty interesting how all this — everybody is going to Nashville. Yeah, INDYCAR and NASCAR, everybody is kind of coming to Nashville and focusing on Nashville, honing in on Nashville as a place to be. I think it’s a long time coming to be honest with you. It should have happened years and years ago.

“Nashville is a great fit. The town does have a lot of energy. When we were doing the Burnout on the Boulevard, that was a moment for me, I was upstairs in one of those buildings looking out the window watching all that happen, and it was clear as day that this was a great relationship and a great partnership with NASCAR and the city of Nashville. It just felt normal. It didn’t even feel new. It felt like an old friend and a buddy you hadn’t hung out with in a long, long time. I like it a lot, and I love the fact that we’re celebrating our champion there.

“Vegas was a great time, New York was a great time. Very long way to go, but still a lot of fun any time you can get to Vegas. But Nashville for me can provide and be that same experience to where we feel like the crowning of the champion is the most important day in the sport in my opinion — where we celebrate the year and we acknowledge all of the things that happened in our sport in that one night.

“I think that the fit for the city is a good one, and we need to be racing there. We need to have our product there. So now that’s happening. All of this seems to be coming full circle. It all makes sense to me.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Saturday, June 19

  • NASCAR Cup Series Practice (2:05 to 2:55 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Sunday, June 20

  • NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (11:05 am – NBC Sports Network)
  • Ally 400 at Nashville (3:30 pm – 300 laps, 399.9 miles – NBC Sports Network)

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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.