Emerging From a Decade of Silence to Victory Laps

by | May 2024

FROM 2011 to 2021, the Nashville Superspeedway stood silent but not forgotten. For a solid decade, the gates remained locked, its track untouched by the thrill of race day, and the roar of cheering fans was a distant memory. Yet, through the stillness, Don Huebner kept the spirit of the speedway smoldering in his heart. Day after day, year after year, this unsung hero faithfully tended to the asphalt giant, preserving a temple of speed against the relentless march of time. He dreamed that scores of people would return to the hallowed grounds of Nashville Superspeedway one day. And so they have.

Huebner explained, “During that time, I kept busy maintaining the entire facility. I didn’t want it to fall into disrepair. I pressure-washed everything and kept the grass mowed. We were kept busy with NASCAR testing. Some days, we’d have three or four teams in a single week. Several music videos and television commercials were filmed there. The Wilson County Sheriff’s Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol also used the facility for training, and we held minor events. 

“That was pretty much it. We were just trying to keep the doors open — to keep everything usable. Nobody ever thought we’d reopen. We were just going to be bulldozed. I kept fighting for it, saying, ‘This track has too much potential. Something is bound to happen.’ At what seemed like the last moment, it did.”

With over 1,000 acres and a seating capacity for 25,000 fans with potential for greater expansion, the Nashville Superspeedway officially opened in 2001, debuting as a staple in the NASCAR Busch Series and IndyCar Series following a marked rise in popularity of stock car racing in the 1990s. As the largest concrete-only track in NASCAR, the 1.33-mile D-shaped track hosted three NASCAR Cup Series races, 24 NASCAR Xfinity Series races, 16 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events, and eight Indy Racing League contests. 

The mighty roar of race engines ended abruptly in August 2011 when Dover Motorsports announced the track would close for the 2012 season. Other than the security guards, on most days after this announcement, Huebner was the only person working at the facility. As the grounds changed ownership and the prospects of reopening grew bleaker, Huebner never let the rumors deter him from performing the daily maintenance.

“I’ve always taken my job seriously,” expressed Huebner. “This place is close to my heart. I care for it as if it were my very own business. One time, someone with Dover Motorsports asked me why I was still here working at an event. My answer was, ‘You may own this track, but you’re at my facility,’ and that’s just how I look at it. Most of the time, I never even talked to anybody. The owners knew that if there was something wrong, I’d call them. If they didn’t hear from me, they knew this place was in good hands.”

In June 2020, amid a spreading pandemic and worldwide uncertainty, with the unwavering faith displayed by Don Huebner, Dover Motorsports made plans to reopen the Nashville Superspeedway. After being closed for a decade, estimates rolled in, with renovation costs ranging upwards of $8-10 million. However, after a detailed inspection by structural engineers, CEO Mike Tatoian announced there were no major repairs needed. In fact, the facility was in “phenomenal shape.”

Huebner credits his strong work ethic to his father, Charlie, who struggled to make a living on their small dairy farm in Verona, Wisconsin, while his mother lived daily with Multiple Sclerosis. Huebner has always enjoyed tinkering with tractors and restoring vehicles and thought he’d become a mechanic. After his parents died, the lure of Middle Tennessee beckoned him to come for a visit and stay indefinitely.

Recently, the Nashville Superspeedway awarded Huebner a Gibson guitar, recognized his 23 years of dedicated service, and awarded him the Employee of the Year title.

“I hope to leave behind a legacy of work ethic, of sticking it out. Don’t just give up. Fight for what you believe in — for what you want.”

When it comes to racing, Huebner said, “It’s really not about competition to me. It’s just the feel of it and the smell of it. There’s nothing else like it. Stock car racing, tractor pulls… it doesn’t matter. I love the adrenaline that goes through my body — to know something has that much horsepower. Can anything else be more fun?” GN

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