2019 saw the end to an era of celebrating NASCAR’s finest in the city of Las Vegas, moving the festivities to Nashville. In fact, Nashville, synonymous with music, earned the nickname “Music City.”
So, why would NASCAR choose a place with strong ties to music and not so much to racing?
For starters, Nashville is the home of country music, a genre often associated with racing. In many fans’ opinions, there is nothing better than drinking a cold beer, listening to country and enjoying NASCAR. Moving the Champions Week celebration to Nashville gave everyone the opportunity to enjoy all three at once.
This was also highly praised by the drivers themselves, as they too, enjoy the occasional cold beer and jamming out to some of Nashville’s top musicians. As someone who experienced this year’s take on Champions Week myself, I cannot tell you how many times we heard drivers mention how awesome it has been to be in Nashville, and how excited they were to call this place home for the week.
On another note, there has been widespread discussion about the possibility of bringing NASCAR racing back to Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway. There has been a noticeable increase in talk of “resurrecting” the Fairgrounds by both drivers and fans alike throughout the year. Furthermore, having NASCAR in town for their biggest night of the season sure turned heads of those who ultimately have the final call.
It gave NASCAR the opportunity to show what they can bring to town for not only celebration, but racing as well. The amount of times I heard “Nashville Fairgrounds” mentioned throughout the week by fans, drivers, crew members, and media is immeasurable as I lost track the first day alone. To say that racing belongs in Nashville is an understatement. It’s been proven to be one of the most sought after additions to future schedules.
So, just how did Champions Week fair in the City of Music?
NASCAR Night at The Opry
For starters, the first official night of NASCAR related activities kicked off with “NASCAR Night at the Opry”. This was a night full of music and driver appearances, capped off with a performance by Rascal Flatts. A cool experience overall, being at the Ryman Auditorium which was the original home of the Grand Ole Opry until it moved in 1974.
With a starting time of 9:30pm, there was plenty of time beforehand to head down to the Fan Fest area which was set up at Riverfront Park. Here, fans saw all 16 playoff driver vehicles, taking plenty of pictures with them as well.
There were also representatives from different tracks with giveaways and minigames, driver appearances, autograph sessions, and at times, live music.
Burnouts on Broadway
The second day was the day that NASCAR officially took over Broadway. The road was closed and the playoff cars were parked along the street. As a result, it gave another opportunity for fans and curious passers by to get up close and personal. Fans were able to hang out by the cars when the drivers arrived, and got to witness the engines fire as they prepared to start the show.
As far as the burnouts go, there was no shortage of smoke and plenty of rubber showering over the crowd. Being there in person was such a rush, there is just something about hearing, smelling, and seeing these cars light up the street that makes you feel alive.
I highly recommend that everyone add this to their bucket list immediately. While you won’t need a ticket, arriving early will help secure your spot as the sidewalks and viewing areas filled up quickly.
The Main Event
The third and final day of Champions Week was a short, but busy one for me. We started the day at Hooters of Downtown Nashville where Chase Elliott was doing a meet and greet. Afterwards, we dashed back to our hotel to get ready for the main event.
After we arrived at Nashville’s Music City Center, we got an up close view of all the “red” carpet action. The carpet itself was blue but, holds the same meaning.
Once the last driver finished his walk on the carpet, we proceeded up two floors to the main room. Being at the ceremony was a surreal and exciting experience. Another possible bucket list item if you’re into a night of dressing up and mingling with some of NASCAR’s biggest stars. After the show wrapped, we met many drivers, personalities, and even the president of NASCAR himself, Steve Phelps.
To describe this evening with one word is near impossible. It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time. If you’re considering heading to Nashville next year for the Champions Week celebration, go for it. You will not regret it.
Do I think NASCAR should stay in Nashville? Absolutely. The feeling that engrossed the city was of excitement and joy. And almost everyone I spoke to from local businesses were more than happy to accommodate the increase in customers.
The vibe of the city meshed perfectly with the vibe of NASCAR. Most of all, I hope to see everyone back in Nashville for Champions Week 2020.