Report: Charlotte race could move
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc. is so determined to get a second Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that he might be willing to give up a date at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Mark Garrow reports track owner, Bruton Smith, may move the October Charlotte race to Las Vegas. Plus, he has thoughts from Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards.
Bruton Smith told Charlotte television station WBTV on Monday there is a 70 percent chance he will move the October Charlotte race to Las Vegas.
Smith told the station he's flown to Vegas several times to talk about a potential move and "they've made me offers to move one."
"When the game is over, it'll be money, money, money," Smith told WBTV. "Money will move it."
WBTV cited sources who called it a done deal, but Bruton shot down that report on Tuesday, releasing a statement calling the talk "false."
"The 'done deal' report by WBTV regarding moving a race is false," he said. "No final decision has been made regarding any race date move, and I have not discussed this with NASCAR."
Such a move would require permission from NASCAR, which owns all race dates. Senior vice president of race operations Steve O'Donnell said there has been no "formal requests to re-align" for 2014.
"Tracks have the ability to request re-alignment," O'Donnell said. "We review and always decide based on the best interest of the entire sport of NASCAR. We're beginning the 2014 process now."
Las Vegas Motor Speedway officials said any comment on this situation will have to come directly from Smith or somebody from the SMI corporate office. Smith and other SMI officials were not immediately available to comment.
CMS spokesperson Scott Cooper said Smith made his comments during an interview in which the scheduled context was about the history of the track and his possible selection into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
"Obviously, the conversation may have taken a different turn," Cooper said. "All I can say is we're focused 110 percent on this weekend's Coca-Cola 600."
Smith, who owns eight tracks that host Cup events, has lobbied for a second Vegas race date for several years with no success. He also has lobbied to move the season finale from Homestead-Miami Speedway to Vegas, where the season-ending banquet has been held since 2009.
"Las Vegas is a great place -- it's the entertainment capital of the world -- and they want another event," Smith told WBTV.
Las Vegas began hosting a Cup event in 1998 with the event typically in early March.
Smith insisted a potential move of the Charlotte date isn't a fishing expedition.
"I've made two trips out to Vegas and it costs money to go out there," he told WBTV. "I know all the powers out there. I have a lot of friends in Las Vegas. I have businesses out there."
But to consider moving a race from Charlotte would be a huge step.
Smith began his NASCAR empire with CMS in 1960, making it his crown jewel with the first-ever track condominiums for year-round living and the first track of 1.5-mile or bigger with lights.
His latest addition was the world's largest HD television screen.
"That's the paradox of this whole thing," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, the president of CMS before Smith and Wheeler had a falling out in 2008. "This was the thing he was most proudest of."
Wheeler believes Smith's threat to move is connected to his ongoing legal fight with Cabarrus County where CMS is located in Concord.
Smith filed a lawsuit against the city in 2009 seeking millions worth of infrastructure improvements near and around the track. Smith claims county officials breached a contract by not following through.
In April, Smith tried to resurrect that lawsuit, claiming officials reneged on an offer of $80 million to land a new drag strip and upgrade CMS. The oral agreement was reached at a time when Smith threatened to move CMS to another county if he didn't get financial help.
County lawyers have countered that SMI built the drag strip and made improvements before a contract was finalized.
"Some of your dear friends over at Cabarrus County are gonna say, 'Is he? Is he? Is he?'," Smith told WBTV. "Well ... he may. Someone once said, 'Follow the money.'
"Well, if we do this, we will be following the money because, here again, there's a lot of money in Las Vegas. And if it gets to be strong enough, I imagine we might do something like that."
Wheeler said the potential move to Vegas is Smith's way of sending a message to the county.
"Oh, Lord yeah," he said. "This whole thing has to do with Cabarrus County and that lawsuit."
Wheeler also believes Smith is serious about a potential move, which he says would be devastating to the Charlotte area.
"Not only to Charlotte, but to the South itself," said Wheeler, referring to NASCAR over the years taking race dates away from North Wilkesboro Speedway, Darlington Speedway, Atlanta and Rockingham Speedway. "This might be the final coup.
"I know there's been a tremendous rebellion over fans in the South over this," Wheeler added. "I don't know how much more they can take without losing complete interest."
Wheeler said that has to factor with NASCAR if it is forced to decide whether to allow Smith to make such a move.
"They own the date," he said. "They're going to be looking hard at anybody wanting to move a date."