An interview with: DENIS McGLYNN & BEN KENNEDY
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today to discuss the news of the NASCAR Cup Series coming to Nashville Superspeedway in 2021.
We’re joined today by Denis McGlynn, president and COO of Dover Motorsports, as well as Ben Kennedy, NASCAR vice president of racing development.
I’ll open with a quick question for Denis. Can you just walk us through the process of how we got to where we are today in terms of bringing the NASCAR Cup Series to Nashville Superspeedway in 2021?
DENIS McGLYNN: Sure. Thanks for joining us this afternoon.
I’m sure all of you, having followed NASCAR for the last several years at a minimum, are aware of the drumbeat that’s been out there for the change to the NASCAR schedule. The race fans, the race teams, the broadcast partners, everybody is looking for a way to rejuvenate the schedule, to drive growth with the sport.
When we were out in Nashville for the banquet in December, which was over the top successful by the way, we had a chance to sit down with the NASCAR leadership and Ben, listen to where everybody was on this subject. We talked about a list of approximately 10 markets that NASCAR had identified for penetration. As it turned out, number one on that list was Nashville. Of course, us having a track already built in Nashville led to the conversation that basically resulted in what we’ve announced today.
It’s been a very cooperative relationship among all the stakeholders. I think everybody is excited about this. I think it’s a win win win for everybody, specifically for our company now that we’ll be able to have two operating Cup tracks, one here on the East Coast in the middle of major metropolitan areas, and the other in what is going to be the hottest market in NASCAR. It gives everybody who is requesting and seeking change to the schedule at least a hope that this is the first of what will be many.
THE MODERATOR: Ben, can you talk a little bit about what it means for NASCAR to bring racing back to Nashville Superspeedway.
BEN KENNEDY: First off, thank you for having me today. Certainly an exciting announcement today as the return of Nashville Superspeedway for the NASCAR Cup Series in 2021.
Tough to follow Denis after that one. Certainly a huge market for us. I think you go back to even last year around Champions Week and the awards, just the amount of fans that came out there to support the sport in collaboration with the city. It was really neat to see.
I think that kind of continued the dialogue with Denis and Mike in a great collaboration with them along the way of talking about bringing Nashville Superspeedway to the Cup Series next year.
We’re certainly all looking forward to it, know it’s always been a really neat racetrack. We had the Xfinity Series there it will be a decade ago. We return next year as well with the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. I know we have a new package, a new car eventually as well. Certainly a lot to look forward to here.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll now go to the media for questions.
Q. Denis, what plans do you have in terms of renovations at the track? What would the cost be, the timeframe? Especially in terms of capacity, seating, how that could work? For Ben, I’m curious how this news in your mind affects the ongoing efforts at the fairgrounds in Nashville to maybe bring races there, as well?
DENIS McGLYNN: The Speedway itself is in great shape. There are some needs to replace some SAFER wall that we cannibalized over the years to bring to Dover. We’re not too concerned about the Speedway.
The buildings need to all be gone over for all of the infrastructure that services them and the fixtures inside. We’ll be spending money on new carpets, whatever, air conditioning units, all that other stuff.
We expect it’s going to be somewhere between an $8 and $10 million investment over the next two years. I say that because maybe some of the things we want to do we won’t be able to get it done in one year. We may have to stretch it out.
In any case it’s very close to being ready. I think we’ll be up and running in first class fashion come next June.
BEN KENNEDY: I think as it relates to the fairgrounds question in particular, certainly have been in constant dialogue and communication with Marcus and Jerry Caldwell and the team out at SMI, around the fairgrounds in particular. Know they’ve certainly been very close to the project over the past few months. It’s an important track for us on the ARCA side as well. We’ll certainly stay in touch with them as things move along and continue to support them there.
But I think this is really kind of around Nashville and trying to get back to that market, getting to the Superspeedway and trying to do it as quickly as possible as well. I think that’s where we really kind of looked at Nashville Superspeedway and worked with Denis and the team to get there.
Q. Denis, excuse my ignorance here, having never been to the property. I had seen the releases over the years about how various parcels of the land surrounding there had been sold off. What kind of impact does that have, if any? Were those originally supposed to be parking lots? What was that space originally used for when the track was built?
DENIS McGLYNN: The initial development that’s taken place took up what was going to be the drag strip. We did use that for parking. Some of the other parcels were not used at all. What they have already bought and what they have options on will really have no impact on our ability to operate the Speedway.
When we started out there, we had close to 1,400 acres. We still have a thousand acres left. We’re going to have plenty of room to accommodate the crowds that we anticipate out there.
Q. On the stands, I think the capacity now is 25,000. Do you plan to add additional stands before next June? What is your goal for attendance at the first race, a Cup Series race?
DENIS McGLYNN: That’s really a good question. Simple answer is, as we’ve done in the past out there, we’ll augment our permanent seats with portable seats for this first go around. We always like to make sure we have a solid market that we can rely on before we go to the investment for permanent seats. But we’re targeting somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 attendance for that.
You have the issues of COVID 19, what is going to be the end result of that a year from now? Nobody knows these answers. You have to look at that from the health standpoint and economic standpoint. A lot of people have been out of work.
It’s tough to state a goal. We’re looking at a minimum for a sellout of what we’ve got, to sell a good number of portable seats on top of that.
Q. That’s a sellout that would be 50,000 with what you have?
DENIS McGLYNN: 25 would be a sellout at what we got. If we have ticket demand in excess of that, which I anticipate, we’ll augment it with the portable seats.
Q. Ben, do you have a plan or any date set to announce the remainder of the 2021 schedule? Has the pandemic impacted any of the potential new sites you’ve been looking at?
BEN KENNEDY: I think that’s a good question.
I think as far as the 2021 schedule goes, still working through a lot of that. I would say stay tuned, more to come there. Certainly I think a lot more to be excited about around the 2021 schedule.
I think as it relates to what’s kind of going on around the pandemic and this year, certainly keeping our close eye on that. Primarily as it relates to 2021 and our return to racing, what all that entails, announcing the next portions of the schedule, but also looking to 2021 as well, what if any impact it has on that. We’re certainly keeping our pulse on it as things move along.
Q. You said that opening the Nashville facility will enable you to host other exciting forms of racing and entertainment options. What do you envision there? Do you think we may see down the road a doubleheader at Dover in the Cup Series?
DENIS McGLYNN: Well, we’re open to all kinds of racing. When you build these facilities, you don’t want them to sit idle a single day. There are only so many things that will be productive from an economic standpoint so we’re going to evaluate these opportunities as they come before us.
We think if we have a successful, as anticipated, opening at the Superspeedway that it will lead to attention maybe by other activities that could really focus in that particular geographic. We’re open to anything.
In terms of a doubleheader at Dover, there’s been nothing announced and nothing really to say that is final. At least in terms of internal planning, until we hear otherwise, we’re planning on a doubleheader here in August. That’s yet to be determined.
Q. Denis, do you see the race weekend or the race date having a couple of events associated with it as you did in the past when the Nashville Superspeedway had the Busch Series, you would have a truck or ARCA race? Is that something you’re looking at or will this be a standalone type of event?
DENIS McGLYNN: We would like to see at a minimum an Xfinity race as a partner with this, and maybe even a truck race, too, or an ARCA race.
Some of the stuff we were talking about with capital reinvestment has to do with garage space and the way the infield is laid out. They’re logistical decisions and schedule decisions that NASCAR will have to weigh in on. Our hope is we have multiple events, but we just don’t know exactly what they are to announce to you.
Q. Ben, what have you seen that makes you think fans want racing in Nashville, especially on another intermediate oval? What makes you think this location can work? Any chance this is a placeholder until the fairgrounds is ready?
BEN KENNEDY: I think Denis alluded to it a little bit earlier on. Really when we started the 2021 schedule, it was really looking at not only ’21 but years out as well. Where do we want to be in the future? That involved a lot of research, kind of going back to the drawing board of where do we have fans today, where are they passionate, and where are they passionate about having a race.
Nashville was really one of those top markets. Obviously, as I mentioned earlier, been working with Marcus and the team around the fairgrounds. Nashville Superspeedway also came up in conversations with the group out at Dover. What a better opportunity, an opportunity now, as well, to explore that in 2021.
I think as you look at it in particular, it is an intermediate, but it’s also a unique one, too. It’s a mile and a third. It’s also a concrete track, actually the largest concrete track we’ll have on our schedule, as well.
I think the uniqueness of it tied to the market is kind of a win win scenario. I think it will certainly add a little bit of variety to the schedule, kind of another turning point as we think about the next iterations of the 2021 schedule.
DENIS McGLYNN: Just to add on there, I think in terms of measuring the demand there, Nashville has always been a top 10 and sometimes, often in fact, a top five ratings market for NASCAR telecasts. Everybody just knows it’s a super seethingly enthusiastic market for NASCAR.
Q. How many jobs will be involved in reopening the Speedway?
DENIS McGLYNN: I think it’s a two part answer. The first part is going to be all the construction and whatever other kind of related service jobs are going to be involved to help us get ready. Honestly, I don’t know how to answer that.
The staffing is probably going to be in the 40 personnel range, which is sort of typical for facilities like that. But with all these modern ways of communication, all of that, we might be able to change that a little bit. But I think that’s as good an estimate as any.
Q. Denis, if you’re going to have one race in Dover, the other in Nashville, are you going to do anything to replace the race that’s not going to be in Dover? A big event or concert or something?
DENIS McGLYNN: As I mentioned, this same question regarding Nashville, we’re always open to any opportunity to generate revenue here at this property. Firefly is a perfect example of that. It’s just that there’s only so many opportunities to find events that you can make money with with a facility that’s so specifically designed for motorsports.
The first guy who finds something to bring in here that will replace what’s leaving, we’ll be more than willing to talk.
Q. Let’s say things in Nashville do pick up and you continue to find success there, what does that mean for Dover? In 2022 would that potentially mean you’re going to continue to have less races in Dover if things continue to work well in Nashville?
DENIS McGLYNN: No. Our plan is not to move another race out of Dover.
Q. Denis, about Dover, you’re eliminating the one race with Dover, moving it to Nashville. What is the situation for this season’s schedule in Dover? Do you have any updates there as of now?
DENIS McGLYNN: As I mentioned earlier, while we don’t have any confirmation, and NASCAR certainly hasn’t verified this yet, only because we have to plan for August, we’re planning for the eventuality that we may have our spring race, which was postponed, blended into our August race to have what essentially would be a doubleheader weekend with two Cup races, two Xfinity races, a truck and an ARCA race.
Again, that’s not official. That’s what we’re planning for because we don’t want to be caught shorthanded at the last minute with that kind of a proposition.
Q. With Speedway Motorsports’ involvement at the fairground, were they brought into this at any point as the conversation moved along, moving to the Speedway became a reality?
BEN KENNEDY: I could probably touch on it a little bit.
It has been separate conversations. So I think if you look at kind of SMI, what they’ve been doing with the fairgrounds over there, obviously a separate property than Nashville Superspeedway.
While they continue to work on the fairgrounds and are optimistic about what the future might look like there, this has been kind of a separate conversation.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for joining us today. Appreciate all your continued coverage of our events. Have a great afternoon.
— NASCAR —