Racing is Here to Stay: Melissa Smithson Details How Nashville Raceway is Changing Production Companies


In a discussion on Tuesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy was joined in studio by all-star panelist Melissa Smithson, chairman of the Davidson County Republican Party.

During the show, Smithson described the details between the fair board, Metro and Formosa Productions differing contractual interpretations of monies owed which prompted the production company to terminate the contract. She explained that ‘racing is here to stay’ and that the current status of the raceway is only a change of hands in production.

Leahy: We are delighted to have in-studio, our all-star panelist, and chairman of the Davidson County Republican party, Melissa Smithson. Good morning Melissa.

Smithson: Good morning Michael.

Leahy: You always brighten up our days here. I mean Jimmy and I are hanging out here and we’re just talking guy stuff and we’re boring. And you come in and you lighten up the day. So we’re delighted to have you hear.

Smithson: Thank you. Thank you. (Giggles)

Leahy: Also, I need enlightenment, well people will say you need a lot of enlightenment, but particularly I need enlightenment about something you’re very knowledgeable about. So I read this story about the fair board and the raceway and it seemed like the fair board was saying we’re getting rid of the Nashville raceway. You were at the meeting. Tell us what happened.

Smithson: Yes. Well, I try to go to each of the board meetings they have every month. It’s usually the first Tuesday of each month. And I went there they had discussions about the contract of the promoter who’d been the promotor there for several years, Formosa Productions.

Leahy: That’s a promoter of the races.

Smithson: Of the races. Local racing.

Leahy: And the races have been happening there how frequently?

Smithson: Once a month.

Leahy: Once a month. OK.

Smithson: Basically once a month during the warm months. With the economy like it is and a lot of things have been going on with that track, they agreed to eight events a year. So we try to have those…

Leahy: Eight events. How many people show up for those races typically?

Smithson: Oh, we get a good crowd.

Leahy: Really?

Smithson: I would say more than the Sounds a lot of times.

Leahy: Really? Like 5,000, 10,000?

Smithson: Between the pits and the stands, I would say anywhere between 5,000 plus.

Leahy: I have got to go. I’ve lived here in Nashville since 1990. I have not been there. I’ve got to go there.

Smithson: Oh, you have to go. It’s very exciting. It’s very family-friendly. It’s a place where you can take your family and afford to take your family.

Leahy: That’s a good thing.

Smithson: Good entertainment. Good food. Pump Brothers Pizza is there. they have a great concession stand.

Leahy: I am going to do that. But I got the impression that there wasn’t going to be racing there anymore but I guess I’m wrong.

Smithson: In the charter, it says there will be racing there.

Leahy: Ahhh.

Smithson: So the 2011 charter amendment that we did will continue all existing uses. State Fair. Flea Market. The current events that were going on at the time and racing.

Leahy: OK. So what was this vote about a couple of weeks ago?

Smithson: It was regarding the contract for most of the productions. They have fallen behind on some payments.

Leahy: Ahh.

Smithson: And there was a lot of debate as to how the contract was written. Do they owe them money? Is there a schedule of money? Payments and stuff. And the fair board decided as a matter of convenience to give Formosa production 90-day notice.

Leahy: OK. So what this means then if you can translate this for me, what this means then is that they’ve got 90 days to honor the contract by paying money to the board.

Smithson: Well, they owe money. They owe past money and they decided to terminate the contract. Now Metro can do that and so can the promoter at any time.

Leahy: I’m guessing that Formosa Productions is not the only race event promoter in the world?

Smithson: No. No, there are a lot of different people  I’m hearing from rumors. I don’t know who those are and I won’t repeat, that are looking to try to work with the Fair Board .

Leahy: So the Fair Board then is basically changing race event promoting vendors.

Smithson: Yes.

Leahy: That’s it.

Smithson: No. Racing is here to stay.

Leahy: OK. See now, the clarity has come to my mind. I understand. It’s because of the way it was reported, racing order. But no. It means they’re just picking a new vendor.

Smithson: Yes, they are in search and will probably put out an RFP. For that in the coming months. And the end of the board meeting they said they were dedicated to the Fair Board people were dedicated to having racing.

Leahy: To finding a new racing promoter.  Are there a lot of companies out there that would bid on this RFP?

Smithson: I believe so. There are a lot of people who’s interests are piqued. SMI is one of them. That’s the people who own Bristol Motor Speedway.

Leahy: Oh, SMI owns Bristol. They would probably be a better vendor, wouldn’t they? They have more experience.

Smithson: Yes. I guess because they have lots of experience and they own several tracks across the southeast. I would say they have a little bit of experience even though four years ago they were kicked off because they didn’t have experience according to the procurement of Metro which is a whole other segment.

Leahy: OK. So there are all sorts of stuff going on there. So then when this new vendor host the first race in the next season?

Smithson: I would predict it would be around April.

Leahy: Around April.

Smithson: That’s a good time to start racing. Just the weather. Any earlier you’re getting into the rain.

Leahy: Already, Melissa Smithson, you have enlightened us. (Smithson chuckles) And I’m delighted about that.


Listen to the third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville” by Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville.









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