Knoxville, TN, is known for being a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, the University of Tennessee and the epicenter of Rocky Top.
One day, it may also be known for hosting an IndyCar race.
A racetrack capable of accommodating the fast cars that compete at the Indy 500 is being built. Called Flatrock Motorsports Park, it will include a grand prix permanent road course. IndyCars already run a street race three hours to the west in Nashville.
There will be two tracks, one for club racers and another for professional events. The organizers are aiming for FIM Grade 1 for the GP course and FIA Grade 2 certification for both courses, certifications indicating that the track is safe for IndyCar and MotoGP motorcycles. The target date for opening is 2023 but it would be 2014 before the professional track will be complete.
It is more likely first to get sports car events such as IMSA, certainly before IndyCar or MotoGP. The two tracks will be linked in an endurance layout of six miles and IMSA – which runs the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring in the USA – loves those endurance events. Although most of its races are two hours in length.
Already, track partner and president Rusty Bittle told RACER magazine that he’s talked with some sanctioning bodies to host “what I consider to be a pretty major event in 2024.”
He also told RACER that “I think a world-class motorsports destination is what I keep saying — that’s what I want to be. We think we’ll be one in the world, I don’t know if there’s anything else out there like we’re doing, so I think it will be very unique in the motorsports industry as well.
“This has been about a 20-year dream. It started as a kart track and has evolved into an 800-acre motorsports park. Ultimately for me, most tracks are not destinations. There are private clubs now that are not really open to the public, obviously, and then there’s tracks with track promoters. So we wanted to really bring that concept together and have two tracks — a commercial track and then a private facility — but then the most important thing was to have amenities and it be a destination.
“That’s what I think will make Flatrock different is that we will be a destination with hotels and villas, a winery, brewery, restaurants and things for people to do that aren’t even interested in getting on the track.
“We want wives and kids and family and friends to be able to come and have a good time as well, even if they don’t get on the track. That was the big push with Flatrock.”
“We have some MoUs (Memorandum of Understanding) with some people that are confidential but we are talking to several sanctioning bodies. We will have some events in 2023 and have got what I consider to be a pretty major event in 2024 as well.
“We should have the club track up and running early next year, and then the amenities will come on over time; and then the grand prix track will be 2024 — which is what the big event will be on. We’re shooting for a FIM level one on the GP track — which can host anything motorcycles — and a FIA level two on that, as well as a FIA level two on the Club track.”
“I don’t think that Knoxville has the hospitality for Formula 1. I think there’s always the potential there to attract the big series, but I think it’s going to take some time for us to get hospitality on-site. We’re going to have at least a four-star hotel and some other hotels on-site. Once those get built I think we can start getting the big boys to look at us.
“FIA level two can host IndyCar, and I think eventually we could be a level one track, we’re just not going to do that on the front end. If we had to go back and do some modifications… Because the FIM level one is a pretty stringent requirement, but I think the FIA level one could be got in the future just with doing some upgrades.”