Nashville group wants to bring major racing series to downtown Music City.
A proposed Grand Prix of Nashville race that would run through the streets of Music City has gained momentum with the addition of more investors and board members from the entertainment industry, according to Matt Crews, executive vice president of the Grand Prix Association of Nashville.
IndyCar, IMSA and even Formula E are on the group’s wish list of potential race series partners.
Crews is the key member of the association led by former Pocono Raceway executive Joe Mattioli III that hopes to stage a big-time street race in Nashville by 2020.
Mattioli is part of Mattioli family that owns Pocono Raceway. He is the son of Pocono Raceway founder and owner the late Dr. Joseph Mattioli and Rose Mattioli. He was the promoter at the Nashville fairgrounds track a decade ago. Mattioli left Pocono Raceway as a member of Pocono Raceway’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee on January 28, 2013 to pursue other endeavors.
“We’ve got some additional investors involved from the state of Tennessee and people who used to be at Nashville,” Crews said. “We want to make sure we have the right partners. It takes expertise and connections to make this happen.
“The entertainment industry is a huge piece of this. Rod Essig, who runs the Nashville CAA (Creative Artist Association) office, which is a huge mover and shaker in the Nashville community, is on board. Kix Brooks is one of our board members and he is half one of the the most popular duos in country music history (Brooks & Dunn). They are big in supporting this event.
“Nashville is an entertainment city and the race is the background noise to the party. We are a festival city.”
A key issue, however, is striking a deal with a sanctioning body. Both Nissan’s and Bridgestone’s North American headquarters are based in Nashville. But those two companies do not compete in a racing series together.
“We are still walking that tightrope to find the right sanctioning body that fits the Nashville landscape and finding the right weekend that fits at the right time,” Crew said. “The sanctioning body is an important piece to this but it’s a piece.
“I’ll even throw in Formula E. The largest selling electric car in the world is manufactured here in Nashville. So, there are a lot of different sanctioning bodies that make sense for Nashville.
“We don’t have any commitments from a sanctioning body right now.”
IndyCar president of Competition and Operations Jay Frye believes Nashville would be a great market for the series … someday.
“Would it be something we would be interested in at some point? Sure,” Frye said. “Firestone is based there, and that is important but there is nothing going on with Nashville right now as far as IndyCar is concerned.”