Earnhardt Jr.

Perhaps nobody has been more vocal about bringing NASCAR back to the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway than Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee has been so outspoken about it that he’s even willing to race himself to make it happen. Earnhardt Jr. was in Nashville on Friday to promote the Mernards ARCA Series at the Fairgrounds, and he again made a case for the top auto racing association to return to Music City.

"If they run Xfinity Series here, I'll be here," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I run once a year. I'll probably do that as long as I can and there should be a few more years of that. Hopefully, we can get the Xfinity here soon; the next couple of years because I'd love to come out here and compete."

Earnhardt Jr.’s father, Dale Sr., had success racing at the Fairgrounds in the late 1970s and early 80s, winning the Busch Nashville 420 in both 1980 and 1983, and seeing top-five finishes in the 1978 Sun Drop Music City USA 420, 1979 Busch Nashville 420 and 1984 Pepsi 420.

Earnhardt Jr. himself raced at the Fairgrounds Speedway back in the mid-to-late ‘90s, finishing third in the Bellsouth Mobility/Opryland 320 in 1998 and ninth in the Bellsouth Mobility 320 in 1999.

"I still remember the first time I came to race here," Earnhardt recalled of his earliest memories of the track. "We came out here and tested; Jeff Green and Mark Green came with me because they had a little experience with this racetrack. I fell in love with the place after the first lap.

“…We were typically racing Friday nights in Florence, South Carolina, and Saturday nights in Myrtle Beach. Any off weekend we knew exactly where we were going and that was to Nashville. The racing then was very healthy. Big car counts. It was a big track, much different than anything we had farther east.”

The Xfinity and Camping World Truck series stopped racing at the track in 2000, and there hasn’t been a NASCAR Cup Series race at the Fairgrounds since 1984, although Earnhardt Jr. doesn’t understand why.

Mayor John Cooper and Bristol Motorsports Inc. reached a deal in March to renovate the Fairgrounds Speedway with BMI shouldering the responsibility of managing and operating the track and assuming all financial responsibility for track renovations and maintenance, which could be as much as $50 million.

Cooper stated the goal is to bring NASCAR back to the Fairgrounds as early as 2022. 

"I knew about the history of the track, I knew about my father's history here," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I knew about Nashville and what Nashville was all about. So, it was always kind of perplexing to me as to why were weren't competing here in the Cup Series and why that went away for whatever reason."

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_

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