Originally created 11/08/97

Dover Downs purchases Nashville track, plans to build new superspeedway



NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Dover Downs Entertainment Inc. has acquired Nashville Speedway USA, and plans to build a 50,000-seat complex in hopes of attracting a Winston Cup race.

Dover Downs, which operates Dover Downs International Speedway in Delaware, is partnered with Gaylord Entertainment Co., owner of the Grand Ole Opry, in the complex plan.

The facility at a yet-to-be-determined site in Metro Nashville, will house a superspeedway, drag strip, dirt track and road course, Denis McGlynn, Dover Downs president and CEO, said Friday.

The cost is pegged at $25 million to $30 million, and the earliest possible completion date would be late 1999, said Tom Horne, Dover's vice president of finance. He said potential sites have been identified, but declined to disclose them.

"Nashville is an exciting market," McGlynn said. "Nashville Speedway has earned a position of great respect in the motorsports world.

"The acquisition fits with our growth strategy and our plans for a new speedway will allow Nashville to keep pace with the growth of NASCAR and motorsports in general."

It's been a busy week for Gaylord, which on Tuesday announced plans to close the Opryland USA theme park and replace it with a $200 million entertainment-retail complex.

"Stock car racing has been a part of the culture of this area for decades, and we are excited to be involved with such experienced race track operators as Dover Downs," said Gaylord president Terry London.

Nashville Speedway USA leases Nashville Speedway, on the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. The $3 million Dover Downs paid for Nashville Speedway USA allows it to continue the same racing calendar at the track, Horne said.

Mayor Phil Bredesen embraced plans for a new track.

"One of the questions I am always being asked is, `When are you going to build a track and bring big-time auto racing to town?' " he said.

Darrell Waltrip, a Nashville-area resident and three-time Winston Cup champion, said Nashville and NASCAR are a great match.

"If there is a city that parallels what NASCAR really is all about, Nashville is that city," he told the Nashville Banner. "This is the home of TNN, Opryland and country music. All the things that are images of NASCAR are Nashville."

McGlynn emphasized there is no deal to bring a Winston Cup race to Nashville, but said that is a goal.

"We have no commitment from NASCAR today that is in the works," he said. "We'll build the track, show them what we have.

"They already know what (Nashville Speedway president Bob Harmon) can do as a promoter. Then the ongoing lobbying effort will begin."

Dover Downs International Speedway, a one-mile track with 97,000 seats and hopes to eventually enlarge to 170,000, holds two Winston Cup races each year. It also has announced the addition next year of an Indy Racing League event.

There are no plans to someday shift one of its Winston Cup events races to Nashville, Dover officials said.

Nashville Speedway, a short track which opened in 1904, is one of the oldest tracks in the country. It ran its first Winston Cup race -- then called Grand National -- in 1969. It had two Winston Cup races a year from 1971 through 1984.

The track's Saturday night races are part of NASCAR's Winston Racing Series. It also plays host to a Busch Grand National race, a NASCAR truck race and the annual All American 400, part of NASCAR's Slim Jim All Pro Series.