Erik Moses had less than one year to transform the Nashville Superspeedway from a seldom-used storage space for Nissan to a first-class venue, fit for hosting NASCAR’s return to Nashville after a 37-year absence.
Named president of the Superspeedway in August — two months after the announcement the track would host a NASCAR race in 2021 — Moses had his work cut out for him as he faced a multi-million-dollar renovation.
Over the next nine-plus months, Moses and his staff worked feverishly to install new light and sound systems, renovate the media and infield centers, revamp tower suites and luxury areas, install and upgrade WiFi and fiber networks, and overhaul the track itself — including new signage, repainting the retaining walls and adding an additional 15,000 seats in the grandstands.
“There have been very few spaces on this campus that have not been touched as we’ve gotten this place ready to be reborn,” Moses said.
In total, an estimated $8 million to $10 million was spent on the final product that debuted Friday during the Camping World Truck Series Rackley Roofing 200. And at first blush, the track made all the right first impressions.
“Nashville Superspeedway looks amazing,” NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on Friday. “Didn’t know what to expect after it sat idle for so long. They have done an incredible job preparing it for this weekend. It looks brand new.”
“I would be lying to say I didn’t smile when I saw that,” Moses said in response to Earnhardt Jr.’s remarks. “It’s great to hear that kind of thing from people who are legends in the sport. And for someone who really values this market ... for NASCAR, it’s fantastic.
“We’ve thankfully heard that sentiment echoed out of people from NASCAR and our sport over the last couple days and we’re really grateful. It’s been a great team to get this to look like what you see here.”
As good as the initial reviews were, the true tests came during the actual racing parts of the weekend, to which the track appeared to earn high marks from those who put rubber to asphalt.
“It was very racy,” said Kyle Busch, who won the Xfinity Series Tennessee Lottery 200 on Saturday. “Way racier than I remember Nashville being in the past. We used to come here, it was always bottom lane…be on the bottom, and if you ever got off the bottom, you were pretty much getting passed.
“That’s the way it kind of looked like at the end, but in the middle part of the race, you could move around, enter way high and come down the middle, or stay high, wherever you wanted to be. So, it was way wider than I remember.”
Added Hendersonville’s Josh Berry: “They prepped the track right. The weather conditions were good and it’s just all in all a success.”
The Superspeedway previously had a reputation as a bit of a tire-shredding track. The 1.33-mile, all concrete track surely brought back bad memories for drivers such as Busch, Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick, who raced on the Gladeville track more than 10 years ago.
One of the advancements the track made — and perhaps the most talked about by the drivers — was using a general resin on the track instead of the heat-activated PJ1 traction compound.
"When I was in second following [Grant Enfinger], you ain't going to pass someone driving the same lines, so I just started moving around trying to find something and luckily, I did," said Ryan Preece, Caping World Truck Series Rackley Roofing 200 winner. "It didn't seem nearly as grippy when it activated, but it also was a lot more forgiving if it wasn't activated.”
Added Keselowski: “I’m really impressed. The track is in amazing condition for having sat 10 years. I feel like it’s in better condition than when I last was here. I don’t know how that’s possible. It’s like it reversed age. They’ve got the fountain of youth in here somewhere.
“The concrete is really good… [The] last time I was here, it was really bumpy, and it doesn’t seem nearly as bumpy as it used to be. Somebody has been doing a lot of work around here and they’ve done an excellent job. Far surpassed my expectations coming here to Nashville.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_