Professional house flipper Chuck Ward said he plans to close on Newport Speedway in Tennessee on April 1. He hopes to bring life to a speedway that last hosted a race in 2017.
While he has earned a living buying old houses, fixing them up, and then selling them for the past 35 years, Ward said Newport Speedway will be different.
“I’m going to buy it, fix it up, and keep it,” Ward, of Knoxville, Tennessee, said.
Ward’s past in the sport included fielding a pavement late model for driver Chris Corum.
“We won the last race we competed in at Newport Speedway,” said Ward. “When I heard it was for sale, I made contact with the owners, the Ramsey family. Others had wanted to buy the speedway and develop the land, but I wanted to buy it and keep it as a racetrack. I want to put my touch on it and make it a showplace that everyone would want to go to.”
Ward pointed to his track record in residential real estate and revitalizing the well-known Knoxville, Tennesse, night club, Cotton Eyed Joe.
“My plans for the speedway start with a major clean-up,” Ward said. “There will be lots of landscaping … lots and lots of paint applied. There will be new fencing around the facility and a new catchfence along the backstretch of the track.”
For this season, Ward looks to remodel the concession stand and press box, as well as refurbish the concrete grandstand that holds 2,200 spectators.
“We will reestablish tier parking outside the track for 100 spectator cars,” said Ward. “We have electricians on standby to install new LED lighting.”
Later on, he wants to redesign the infield so haulers can park there during races as well as hold concerts when racing is off. Newport, Tennessee, drew national attention in 1996, with large music events at another venue. It had hosted Lollapalooza, which had acts such as Metallica, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine, and the Ramones. It also had Rock the Smokies, with Hank Williams Jr., Travis Tritt, and The Charlie Daniels Band.
As far as racing, Ward sees refurbishment taking two months. He intends for Newport Speedway to host four to six races in 2024.
“I want the track to look and feel spectacular first — then we can hit the ground running,” Ward said. “In the meantime, we will figure out which classes of cars to run. We have our eye on some bigger races with a couple of touring series.”
Outside Groove Note of Transparency: Corrected the location of the 1996 Lollapalooza and Rock the Smokies events, and corrected the date Newport Speedway last held a race (2024-02-06).
The Outside Groove Director of Photography has written hundreds of stories since the website’s inception. This year marks his 54th year of covering auto racing. Adaskaveg got his start working for track photographer Lloyd Burnham at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970. Since then, he’s been a columnist, writer, and photographer, in racing and in mainstream media, for several outlets, including the Journal Inquirer, Boston Herald, Stock Car Racing, and Speedway Illustrated. Among Adaskaveg’s many awards are the 1992 Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) Ace Lane Photographer of the Year and the 2019 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) George Cunningham Writer of the Year.