By Cole Cusumano
The time has come for NASCAR to face the music of unpredictability and opportunity in Tennessee. Although not entirely unfamiliar territory in recent years, as the awards banquet was moved here in 2019, the sport makes its long awaited return to Nashville Superspeedway following a 10-year hiatus.
Serving as one of the most important events in the sports history pertaining to growth, due to Nashville’s booming market and economy, it appears the appetite for NASCAR has been fulfilled leading into the weekend tripleheader. The track will not only be operating at full capacity, it will be hosting 38,000 fans after installing additional grandstands to accommodate demand.
While NASCAR’s developmental series have raced at Nashville before, the majority who’ve competed there have moved on from racing, and the ones who remain agree the technological advances makes prior notes obsolete. However, there is no substitute for experience and many feel this will be crucial heading into the highly anticipated weekend.
The main topic of concern throughout the garage is the unique characteristics of the track and its surface. Nashville is a 1.33-mile concrete, tri-oval — a stark contrast to other venues on the circuit with the same finish.
Concrete had a reputation for igniting tire wear, which has many drivers questioning how abrasive the track will be after 10 years of weathering. To add another variable into the mix, Goodyear is allotting teams two different rubbers; left-sides will be the same ones used at Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, while right-sides will feature a more durably compounded material used at Dover International Speedway the last two years.
With all of this in mind, there’s no telling what to expect at Nashville Superspeedway, but we can take a look at what’s trending in each series.
NASCAR Cup Series
The Cup Series will be making its debut at Nashville, although there are 11 full-time drivers who’ve competed at the 1.33-mile track. Winners include Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, while regulars like Denny Hamlin and Matt DiBenedetto have also raced there,
While any experience will be vital, many feel it may not set them at a huge advantage, given the time gap.
“I’ll tell you how much I remember,” DiBenedetto told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “I went and used the simulator at Ford and I went off into Turn 1 and drove in the corner about 300-feet too deep and piled it straight into the wall.”
As for predicting which drivers will rise to the top in Nashville, Hendrick Motorsports is evident. The last time the Cup Series raced on concrete, the team made history by sweeping the top-four spots. Not to mention the surreal run Kyle Larson is on.
Larson has won the last two races (three if you include the All-Star Race) and hasn’t finished below second the last five weeks. In reference to intermediate tracks, the driver of the No. 5 has been a different breed. With two wins and 836 laps led throughout six events, he’s been the class of the field.
In an unconventional twist, NASCAR is opting to use the 750-horsepower package at Nashville. Throughout the season, we’ve predominantly seen the 550-package used at intermediate tracks, so this comes as a welcomed change by fans and those within the sports. The perception is this will condense the racing and make for great battles all around the speedway.
Trending on Twitter: Keelan Harvick surprises his dad with the ultimate Father’s Day gift.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
It’s been 10 years since Carl Edwards scored his series-best sixth win at Nashville, capped off with an iconic backflip celebration. Only six Xfinity regulars have raced at Nashville at some capacity in NASCAR, but we could see a repeat winner after all this time.
Hot off the heels of a Texas Motor Speedway victory, Busch is poised to make history winning his 100th Xfinity Series race. The two-time Cup Champion won in Nashville in 2009 and it would come as no surprise if he were to achieve this monumental feat in Music City.
Trending on Twitter: Landon Cassil inks 19-race crypto-deal
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
For the first time in 10 years, there will be a new winner at Nashville in the Truck Series. Austin Dillon won the most recent event in 2011; everyone else has either retired or gone on to race in another series.
This will be a relatively top-heavy field, as there are a handful of drivers joining in on the action to receive track time before the Ally 400. Ross Chastain will be making his second consecutive start for Niece Motorsports, while William Byron is competing in his first Truck Series race since 2016 for Rackley W.A.R. Ryan Preece is also set to make his series debut driving the No. 17 for David Gilliland Racing.
The biggest news coming out of the Truck Series this weekend was GMS Racing announcing a move to the Cup Series in 2022. There is no word on how many cars, which driver(s) and if it will be a full or part-time team.
Trending on Twitter: Spencer Gallagher has an important statement about GMS Racing.
You can catch all the action from Nashville Superspeedway beginning with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Rackley Roofing 200, on June 18 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1. The NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to Music City the following day with the Tennessee Lottery 250 and the NASCAR Cup Series makes its debut at the 1.33-mile track on June 20 with the Ally 400 at 3:30 p.m. ET, both on NBCSN.