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Officials Scramble to Keep N.C.'s NASCAR Races

Posted November 15, 2007

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— Cabarrus County officials are trying to assemble a package of incentives to persuade Bruton Smith not to move Lowe's Motor Speedway to South Carolina.

Smith threatened to cross the state line – taking North Carolina's last NASCAR races with him – after Concord officials last month rejected his plans to build a $60 million drag strip next to the race track.

Fearing the loss of a major economic engine, the Concord City Council then reversed its stance and approved the drag strip proposal. The city is also sweetening the pot by offering up to $75 million in incentives to help Smith renovate and expand Lowe's Motor Speedway.

The incentives, which could include improvements to nearby roads and property tax rebates, would be evenly split among Concord, Cabarrus County and the state, officials said.

Smith met this week with local officials, North Carolina Department of Commerce representatives and aides to Gov. Mike Easley. He said he plans to make a decision about the speedway's location by Thanksgiving.

"It was a very good meeting, and I think it was productive," Smith said.

Easley declined to comment, but his aides said the governor wants to ensure the speedway stays in North Carolina.

After losing NASCAR races in Rockingham and North Wilkesboro in recent years – Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc. owned the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham when the track's two Nextel Cup races were moved to out-of-state tracks – officials said it's critical to keep the races in Concord.

Studies show NASCAR generates about $5 billion a year in North Carolina. About 90 percent of race teams are based in the state, and the NASCAR Hall of Fame is being built in Charlotte.

John Connaughton, an economist at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said race teams could be lured to other states if Lowe's Motor Speedway and its races leave.

"It's a very troubling situation. It's something we need to pay a lot of attention to (and) make sure we do what we can what we can to keep the track here," Connaughton said.

Steve Byers, who owns NASCAR Collectibles in Raleigh, said the sport's importance to North Carolina is worth incentives being offered to Smith.

"It's a big deal, and it makes a big deal financially for our state," Byers said. "(Losing other races has) already hurt us somewhat in that regard, and if Lowe's was to leave, I think that would only make it worse."

But those who oppose incentives said Smith is merely taking advantage of taxpayer handouts that politicians created.

"Mr. Smith is acting very rationally. He has seen that the state of North Carolina will give you money if you rattle your sword in one hand and your tin cup in the other hand," said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake.

82 Comments

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  • Sessy - Italiana Nov 16, 2007

    UNREAL...........

  • richard2 Nov 16, 2007

    Not one thin dime MR. Smith!

  • Amused Nov 16, 2007

    Dale Sr. didn't run Nascar. Oh they nod their heads to him but went on ahead with what they wanted to do. Dale wouldn't have any say-so in what Bruton Smith wanted done. BTW Dale was all against the Hans device, saying they were for *******.

  • 3779LRRP Nov 15, 2007

    To those that say the engines in NASCAR are old school. They are ment to be just that. No injection...no computers...Just a 358ci V-8 motor with a 4 barrel carb that can be tweeked to it's maximum 850hp.

  • tom547293 Nov 15, 2007

    Yellow Rider, I have to agree with you. Now if I can get Raleigh to give me money not to teardown my house and put up a bigger one or leave town and spend my money elsewhere.

  • blackdog Nov 15, 2007

    ...if a consortium of investors suddenly bought CMC just as soon as Bruton made plans for another track, NASCAR might not sanction another track so close. Now Bruton would be out ...
    ...but is the France relationship too tight ?...

  • ANYWHO Nov 15, 2007

    I'D LIKE TO SEE THE NEW RACETRACK IN THE MIDDLE OF CARY. YOU THINK THAT WOULD MAKE THE CONTAINMENT AREA YANKEES MAD? OH, I FORGOT, NO POLES OR SIGNS..HAHAHAHA

  • gnew46 Nov 15, 2007

    The stupid elected officials in Concord opened this door up when they made old Bruton mad. Now they and the taxpayers of North Carolina are paying the price. The state shouldn't have to pay for Concord's politics.

  • irishale Nov 15, 2007

    The France family proved it was about money, and not about racing when they closed the Hillsborough track in 1968. Since the France family IS Nascar, why should we be surprised when Bruton acts this way?
    Fact is, Bruton was directly responsible for 2 races leaving NC, from Rockingham. It's a true tragedy for the FANS that men like Bruton and the Frances hold the reins of the sport... because their only interest in the 'product' is $$$, not the look on a kid's face at his first race, where his/her dad/mom saw their first race, etc. I'm so glad I started watching road-racing... VIR on the NC/VA border, close by, beautiful scenery, and the cars actually look like cars instead of rolling billboards. yep, call me an ex-nascar fan... I've seen the light :)

  • rugrat462 Nov 15, 2007

    Let them go...look at all the gas saved if they leave..

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