For the first time in 37 years, the NASCAR Cup Series returns to the Nashville area. The drivers will compete at Nashville Superspeedway, a concrete oval in Lebanon, Tenn. This race will be Kurt Busch‘s first at the track, but he will use it as the “dessert” that caps off an exciting weekend.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver met with Heavy on Tuesday, June 8, to preview the upcoming race weekend in Mid-Tennessee. He explained during the sitdown that while he doesn’t have personal experience at Nashville Superspeedway like Brad Keselowski and other drivers, he can compare it to another oval in the area.
“This reminds me a little bit of the Kentucky Speedway where some of the Xfinity and Nationwide Series guys had a ton of laps there,” Busch told Heavy. “The Cup guys didn’t. I’ve actually never raced at Nashville. I went straight from Trucks to Cup, and Cup cars never raced there.
“So the surface hasn’t been run on in years. And so the Goodyear Tire data that we’ve pulled up shows how abrasive it has been during the testing. That’s going to be a big element of surprise, I think, for a lot of teams is how much tire wear we’re going to have and what you have to do to adapt to that.”
NASCAR is Making the Weekend a Must-See for Race Fans
Unlike some races on the NASCAR schedule, the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway takes place in a state where the COVID restrictions are much lighter. According to The Tennessean, Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order abandoning voluntary guidelines for social distancing and mask mandates, opening up the state to hold weddings and concerts among other events.
NASCAR and the track officials responded to the lifted restrictions by putting together a celebratory weekend that will feature some special guests. Brad Paisley will serve as a sideline reporter while Chris Janson will perform a pre-race concert. Busch won’t necessarily have the opportunity to experience some of the extra events due to being in race mode, but he expressed excitement about the return to “normal” festivities.
“It’s gonna be fun, exciting, you know, like COTA, like Circuit of the Americas in Austin. You know that town breeds fun,” Busch explained. “So does Nashville. It reminds me of when NASCAR went to Vegas in the late 90s. You get the party, you get the town, you get the atmosphere. And then oh, the dessert is the race on Sunday.
“So it’s gonna be awesome to see it sold out,” Busch added. “And to have that vibe and that energy with the crowd at Nashville. Really looking forward to that one. It’s gonna be a cool buzz.”
Busch Will Race at Nashville While Rumors Swirl About His Future
When Busch heads to Nashville Superspeedway, he will do so as a member of Chip Ganassi Racing. However, he is currently in the final year of his contract and will become a free agent at the end of the season, provided he does not sign an extension. While fans wait to learn about his future in the Cup Series, rumors continue to swirl about multiple options.
The 2004 Cup Series champion has become the center of multiple reports ahead of the 2022 season. The Athletic reported that he was the top option to join 23XI Racing and drive a second car alongside Bubba Wallace. Busch also teased a potential retirement with a video featuring Rob Gronkowski, Vanilla Ice, and multiple Monster Energy-sponsored athletes.
He released the video prior to the 2021 season and showed himself driving at high speeds on the Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys while looking back on his career achievements. Busch said in the narration that he was putting “a stamp” on his career.
“It was a lifelong dream of mine to drive a full-blown NASCAR car out on the open highways,” Busch said about his video to Heavy. “I’ve got to thank the state of Florida and the commissioners and the different Department of Transportation people that helped us do that. And to drive a NASCAR car 200 miles an hour across the Seven Mile Bridge headed down to Key West.
“It was a perfect setting, you know, to live out that dream, to reflect on my career, all the high moments, the low moments, and it was a cool video that Monster and I dreamed up together. And we left it open-ended on this could be my last year of racing, or we might come back and race again. And for me, I’m a racer. I wanted to race the Next Gen car and it was supposed to be out on the NASCAR circuit this year. It got delayed with COVID to next year. So [we’re] working on things, we’ll see how it all plays out.”
Busch likely will not provide more information about his NASCAR future until closer to the season’s end. For now, he will focus on the next two races. The first will be the annual All-Star Race, which takes place on Sunday, June 13, at Texas Motor Speedway. The second will be the trip to Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 20.