Fairgrounds race track muffler test draws mixed reviews

Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 4:33pm

Big names in the world of auto racing came to the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway Saturday afternoon not to compete for trophies, but to try to show high-speed racecars don’t have to be so noisy.

Sterling Marlin was among those taking laps at the city’s much-disputed racetrack, testing mufflers to demonstrate how the devices limit sound from the cars. For decades, drivers at the fairgrounds haven’t used mufflers. But with the fate of racing at the 117-acre property up in the air, track advocates now are willing to install the mufflers to appease agitated neighbors.

“Mufflers were something that should have been done long ago,” Metro Councilman Duane Dominy said, watching the cars whiz by. “This demonstration has proven that they can make the cars a lot quieter. The track is an asset of the city. I think it should be used to its fullest extent possible.”

The muffler showcase came in advance of Tuesday’s fair board meeting when commissioners will consider two separate proposals to hold racing events at the speedway. The track’s most recent promoter Tony Formosa turned in one proposal, and former NASCAR greats Chad Chaffin and Bobby Hamilton Jr. are behind the other. Both groups have agreed to use mufflers.

On Saturday, drivers first circled the track using a single car without a muffler. They then performed the same exercise but with an attached muffler. A Knoxville-based company set up decibel-reading devices at different areas surrounding the track, results of which will be released later.

Naturally, mufflers reduced the noise of the stock cars, but neighbors are skeptical nonetheless.

“It’s quieter one car to one car,” said Colby Sledge, who chairs South Nashville Action People. “The question is when 28 cars get out here, is it going to be any quieter? That’s an answer we don’t have.”

Several fairgrounds neighbors were among the 75 or so who attended Saturday’s test. A few said they received text messages during the event from friends who claimed they could still hear the cars from their houses.

“Of course the car with the muffler is going to be quieter than the one without,” said Lauren Flaherty, a neighbor. “But really, at the end of the day, it just comes down to what it sounds like when I’m actually living in my house and barbecuing in my backyard.”

Councilwoman Sandra Moore, who represents the neighborhood, said she wants to review the decibel tests before offering a judgment.

“It was interesting,” Moore said of the demonstration. “I’m still in the informative stage.”

Fair board chair James Weaver said commissioners would review the decibel tests before Tuesday’s meeting.

Formosa, who conducted demonstrations separate from Chaffin and Hamilton, said mufflers have become the norm for racing in the Northern United States. The South, he said, is just late to the game.

According to Formosa, the majority of his proposed racing events would feature between 15 and 25 cars. One race would have 35 cars racing at one time. He said most drivers don’t already have mufflers, so adding the auto park would be a requirement.

Council members Michael Craddock, a candidate for mayor, and Robert Duvall were also in attendance.

9 Comments on this post:

By: PromosFriend on 4/2/11 at 4:19

I agree with the folks who are not convinced that lowering the dB level for a single car will translate to an appreciable difference in the quality of life for the residences near the track when a real race with many cars is ongoing, although it is a step in the right direction. I wonder (because I don't know) if there are other sound abatement practices that could be installed, such as sound absorbing walls around the track for instance. Expensive I'm sure, but for race fans and promoters it may beat losing the track altogether.

By: racer84 on 4/2/11 at 7:10

Promos - Yes, Sound walls which we showed to the media several months ago could be constructed, but not unless a long term lease is provided for the Fairgrounds.

"Of course the car with the muffler is going to be quieter than the one without,” said Lauren Flaherty, a neighbor. “But really, at the end of the day, it just comes down to what it sounds like when I’m actually living in my house and barbecuing in my backyard.”

The testing meters should have placed directly next to Ms. Flaherty's grill and inside her living room if this was truly to address her complaint. If it's proven that Ms. Flaherty does not own a grill and has no record of ever having to cancel an outdoor event then that would be a whole nother issue...ofcourse neither question has ever been asked of her. We're just taking her word.

It should be noted that the sound was never measured in either location.

Measuring the sound 20 feet just outside the track was worthless, no one there has an issue with the sounds.

It should also be noted, I have hereditary nerve deafness and only have 30% hearing. I was able to stand inside the track with the muffled car on the track and carry on a conversation with no issues.

I think it was well proven today that the sound has been addressed and is well within legal limits of the citie's ordinance.....actually is was within the law before mufflers.

By: CrimesDown on 4/2/11 at 11:16

The exhaust could play jazz and blow out roses and it's not going to be enough. It's not the noise that bothers the 15-20 people. They won't be happy until there's a park and their houses are worth more money.

By: PromosFriend on 4/3/11 at 2:28

Of course there is also the issue of who was there first. In reading some other articles on this issue I find that the track has been in place since the early 1900's when the area was rural, and lights were installed in the mid 1950's for night racing. Seems to me we might have a case of caveat emptor - let the buyer beware. Since the track has been in place and in operation for so long it seems reasonable that people buying land and homes in the area knew or should have known about the potential for noise. The racetrack promoters have made some reasonable changes (proposed and actual) to address the problem, but without satisfying a few folks. I'm becoming more convinced that this issue is less about noise than about money - that is land that can be developed for other uses and bring in big profits for those connected to the development.

By: HokeyPokey on 4/4/11 at 5:24

Wal shoot far, you can't have no real race without no loud exhausts, damn yankees anyway.


By: BigPapa on 4/4/11 at 7:48

Just go on and close that dump down and develop it into something productive for all of Nashville.

By: GUARDIAN on 4/4/11 at 8:50

GUARDIAN-Let those who have lived there as long as the track has been there have their say. The others knew the track was there when they moved there. Boom boxes, motorcycles, loud street cars and airplanes make more noise than the race cars do without mufflers. That's a fact and if you don't believe me set up the decibel meters.

By: rlboyracer on 4/4/11 at 9:08

I live in South Nashville and hear the airplanes flying over throughout the day up to 9pm or so, 7-days a week. I'm sure many, many other neighborhoods hear the same noise. They probably do in Fairground neighborhoods. Do we move or close the airport? I don't hear this same group complaining about the train track that is adjacent to the grounds? Those rail cars and horn are annoying. I can even hear the cars from the rail yard off of Sidco/Harding 5 miles from my house, I'm not complaining. Next the condo dwellers and others downtown will be complaining about the noise on Broadway, Bridgestone Arena, LP Field, etc. If these people want that much silence, it's time they haul their tails out of city limits and into the country. I lived in the country and now choose to live the city life with all of it's noises. Isn't that part of it. Oh, please silence the ambulances and fire trucks, as they disrupt my cookouts during day and sleep at night.

By: las04 on 4/4/11 at 8:04

BigPapa....Why don't you just move your dump some where else and let the thousands of people who depend on the fairgrounds for income via the flea market, expo events or racing continue on with what has been successful for over 100 yrs. You have know compassion for anyone but yourself....it's all about me me me isn't it you JERK....!!!