Rockingham Speedway next in line?

August, 3, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Another sad day for NASCAR.

Officials at Dover Motorsports Inc. announced Wednesday they are shutting the doors at Nashville Superspeedway and won't be hosting a Nationwide or Truck series race there next season.

That means Sam Bass can stop painting those cool guitars, arguably the best trophy in the sport. That means Kyle Busch won't have an opportunity to at least attempt to smash one like he did in 2009.

Sad, sad, sad.

"We have to go back to when we decided to put our footprints down at Memphis, Gateway and Nashville,'' said Denis McGlynn, the CEO of Dover Motorsports, which already has shut down two of its three tracks -- Memphis and Gateway -- in the past three years. "NASCAR and the economy was in a whole different state. NASCAR was rocking and rolling, and they got into a big expansion mode.

"The [Nationwide] Series was rocking and rolling with Little E [Dale Earnhardt Jr.], Matt Kenseth and the Burton brothers stirring up the series and bringing in big crowds. It was an easy decision to expect that growth to continue and put our footprint down in markets where NASCAR likely would consider expanding into.''

The world changed shortly after that. Dale Earnhardt was killed, then came the 9/11 tragedy and then came a sagging economy that continues to sag.

But let's not focus on the negative here. Let's look at the bright side of Nashville shutting down. Let's look at the doors it could open for other tracks to host a Nationwide and Truck event.

I went to Twitter and asked the fans what they'd like to see. Rockingham Speedway, otherwise known as "The Rock,'' was the overwhelming choice to host one or both of NASCAR's lower series.

Rockingham hasn't hosted a Sprint Cup or Nationwide race since 2004 when it became a pawn to get a second race at Texas Motor Speedway in the Ferko lawsuit.

But the 1-mile track has hosted the ARCA and other smaller series since Andy Hillenburg purchased it in 2007. It remains the track's goal to host a Nationwide or Truck event, but the addition of SAFER barriers at a cost of about $1 million will have to come first.

"It's always been our goal to return Rockingham to the NASCAR fold,'' said Robert Ingram, the director of operations at Rockingham Speedway.

After The Rock, the voting was close among Myrtle Beach Speedway, Martinsville, North Wilkesboro and Lucas Oil Raceway, which recently learned it was losing its Nationwide date to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2012.

The common denominator is all these tracks are shorter than the 1.5-mile cookie cutters that dominate the schedule.

I even had two votes for Eldora Speedway, the dirt track owned by Tony Stewart. Wonder how much "Smoke" paid to sneak that one in?

Others receiving votes were Pocono, Milwaukee, Texas World, Disney, Sonoma, South Boston and Road America.

My votes went to The Rock and Martinsville, although Martinsville seems quite content with a Truck race so I could be swayed to go with LOR.

It's a sad day that Nashville lost a race, but maybe something positive can come out of this.

Maybe we can get another short track on the schedule.

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer



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