The Nashville Fair Commissioners Board and Formosa Productions are committed to making the upcoming All-American 400 weekend on November 2-3 a success amidst the promoter’s recent struggles to pay their bills.
The city-owned short track has suffered a litany of rainouts over the past calendar year, leaving father-daughter promoter tandem Tony and Claire Formosa in breach of contract due to a $129,400 debt in past due payments for rent and food vendor fees.
With an option to terminate or amend the current contract, the Fair Board ultimately voted on Tuesday at its monthly meeting to give the Formosas until December 31 to pay its debt to the city.
Formosa Productions fell behind on its payments starting last fall when the 2018 All-American 400 was postponed to November, rained out to March and then rained-out again, forcing the cancellation of the event altogether.
The March version of the event was scheduled to feature Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Busch in the effort to generate interest and attendance.
The track has endured several additional rainouts this summer, limiting the ability for the Formosas to generate revenue and pay off its debt to the City of Nashville. The Formosas have not paid rent since June and have failed to pay the city $96,400 from June to September.
That’s in addition to $31,930 from concessions from the 2018 season.
“There is no doubt that rain has played a huge part into our missed payments,” Claire Formosa told the board during the meeting. “This is often a weather dependent industry, which makes it tricky.
“I could have never imagined raining out eight months in a row. It’s really hard to have a cash flow and to pay bills and make payments when this happens. There have just been a series of unfortunate events that have put us behind.”
Despite the frustrations from the fair board on the delinquent payments, the five-member committee also expressed sympathy for the Formosas’ predicament, while also sending the unified message that they would help make the track’s signature event as successful as possible.
Nashville Fairgrounds director Laura Womack was the first to make such an overture.
“It’s important that the racing community receives a clear message from us on what the immediate future of the race track, as it concerns the All-American 400, what that looks like as they make the investment and make very important decisions on whether they come here or not,” she said.
Fair Board Chairman Ned Horton acknowledged that there is a sentiment from outsiders that the fair board does not want racing to be successful, especially with the addition of the Major League Soccer stadium on the same property.
Horton said on two occasions during the meeting that this isn’t true and that he personally, as an individual, wants to see racing there now and into the immediate future. Board member Bonna Johnson said, “I want to send a message to the racing community that we are supporting this event.”
Tony Formosa also expressed frustration that the construction project has impacted the viability of his other events this season, including a $5 Night that saw traffic redirected to another parking lot on the facility.
The elder Formosa believes the considerable construction has kept fans away when the track has been open.
Formosa Productions has held the lease for the Fairgrounds Speedway since 2010, recently from year-to-year until the 2017 season, in which the city gave them a five-year agreement. The Formosas had met their end of the financial agreement until this year when the rainouts began to plague their bottom line.
“When I signed the contract two years ago to pay X amount, there was nothing in there about a soccer stadium coming,” the elder Formosa said to the board about the challenges of race track promotion on a perpetual construction site. “There was nothing about road closings, gate closings, entrances shutting down, construction of any form or fashion.
“What do you think that did to my business? Did it affect it at all?”
The Fair Commissioners Board conceded there has been an impact, and in granting the extension, gave the promotional family time to pay the bills. They did so with the hopes that a strong All-American 400 will move things in a positive direction.
Board member Jason Bergeron, arguably the toughest of the members on the Formosa, said he wants to see the All-American 400 take place and be successful, but reiterated that racing at the Fairgrounds can only continue with the current contract in place if the bills get paid.
“I agree that we need the All-American 400 to take place,” he said. “We just need confidence in the infrastructure … this contract has not worked out as agreed upon.”
The elder Formosa said he wants to pay the bills as quickly as possible so he can focus on making the remaining three years of his agreement, which also includes the ever-present possibility of a NASCAR return to the venue, as successful as possible.
“I will make this right and continue to be a good steward for stock car racing in Nashville,” Tony Formosa said. “Just like I’ve always done.”
Claire Formosa said her current fuel supplier is in place and that Jeff Freeman from Hoosier Racing will be on-site to provide tires for the All-American 400 weekend. There has been stories circulating that fuel and tire suppliers have vowed not to supply for the event.
The Formosas are also excited to begin a working relationship with mayor-elect John Cooper, a pro-speedway politician.
The ARCA Racing Series will not return to the speedway in 2020, with the track and Bob Sargent’s Track Enterprises unable to reach a deal. The Formosas hope to work with Track Enterprises on a separate Super Late Model – Pro Late Model doubleheader in its place.