NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Two-time Daytona 500 winner Sterling Marlin could file a lawsuit as early as Wednesday to block Mayor Karl Dean's plan to shut down the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.
“There is not a short track in the country better than this place and the powers that be just don't understand that,” Marlin told News 2.
Marlin was at the speedway Saturday night racing in the 27th Annual All American 400, the final race at the speedway.
“My daughter races, my son races,” Marlin said. “Hopefully we can save it and my grandson can race here one day.”
The speedway opened in 1904 with horse races. In 1958, the dirt track was replaced with asphalt and car racing started.
For years, the raceway was part of NASCAR. Racing legends like Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty raced on the track.
Mayor Dean plans to redevelop the fairgrounds and close the racetrack. 2010 was also the last year for the Tennessee State Fair at the fairgrounds.
Last month, Mayor Dean laid out a proposal to turn about 40 acres of the fairgrounds bordering Brown's Creek into a green park space.
The mayor has not decided what will go in the park, but said there will be public meetings.
Mark Melman has come to the race track for 30 years. It's a tradition that grew along with his family. His wife and daughter also attend races.
“It's a good family oriented place,” Melman said. “Everything is good, the security is great.”
Melman has written letters to the editors protesting the plan to close the racetrack. He also helped organize a petition to show support for keeping the track open.
“I think the mayor is wrong. This is a historical place,” Melvin told News 2. “Racing needs to continue this is all historical.”
Public Information Coordinator for the All American 400 Donnie Redd equates closing the race track to losing a valuable piece of country music history.
“This is the Ryman Auditorium of stock racing,” Redd said. “Like if you tear down the Ryman Auditorium, this is to us what the Ryman is to country music.”
Redd organized the “Save Nashville Speedway” campaign, which includes a blog and online petition.
“It's one thing about fairgrounds speedway we are all family. We all consider each other family,” Redd said.
Marlin said closing the speedway is a bad financial move for Nashville, because the races and accompanying flea market generates revenue for the city.
“I can't see tearing it down, spending the taxpayers' money for parks and green space,” he said.
Marlin added, “You got plenty of room on both ends to build the parks, just leave us alone.”
Racing fans did receive some good news over the weekend.
NASCAR driver Bobby Hamilton, Jr. announced he bought the Riverview Speedway Park in Carthage.
The speedway is currently under renovation and the first race is scheduled for October 11.
- Sept. 13, 2010: Mayor proposes park at state fairgrounds site
- Sept. 10, 2010: Mayor unveils revitalization project for Hickory Hollow Mall
- Sept. 8, 2010: Hickory Hollow Mall among options to host fairgrounds events
- April 29, 2010: Mayor's budget plan calls for city to restructure debt
- Nov. 7, 2009: Council debates fairgrounds' fate
- Oct. 6, 2009: Tenn. State Fairgrounds to cease operations in June