Thursday, November 01, 2007

UPDATED: Bruton's "Big Announcement" Set For Friday; NHIS Sold To SMI

Friday at 2 p.m. CT, Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Bruton Smith will step behind a podium at Texas Motor Speedway to make what he promises will be “a big announcement.” One way or another, that announcement could change the face of NASCAR Nextel Cup Series racing.

Some say Smith will announce that he is moving Lowe's Motor Speedway out of Concord, NC, making good on his promise to bulldoze the current track in protest of the city’s brief opposition to the $60 million dragstrip he planned to build there.

Others say he will announce the purchase of New Hampshire International Speedway from the Bahre family, almost certainly clearing the way for one of the track’s two Nextel Cup dates to be moved to Las Vegas.

Either way, it’s gonna be huge. Bruton Smith huge.

City and county officials are now doing everything in their power to keep Lowe’s Motor Speedway right where it is. An economic package is being discussed that could provide as much as $2.4 million in incentives for the new dragstrip, along with a generous package of tax breaks to help Smith make a reported $200 million in improvements to the existing speedway complex. The Concord City Council has already backtracked on its original zoning decision, and now says there’s nothing they would like more than a dragstrip in their backyard.

The damage, however, may already have been done. Bruton Smith is a proud man, and one not used to hearing the word “no.” Experts say that with the healthy incentive packages being offered up by neighboring municipalities, he could actually come out ahead by leveling Lowes Motor Speedway and rebuilding elsewhere.

Maybe he’ll do that. Or maybe he’ll buy NHIS.

Smith tap-danced around the question late yesterday with my Sirius NASCAR Radio colleague David Poole, rattling off a laundry list of other potential buyers; from Roush Fenway Racing, to Kentucky Speedway owner Jerry Carroll, to Ray Evernham’s new partner George Gillett. Asked again if HE had purchased the track, Smith said, “It’s unfortunate that you weren’t able to get up with me for a comment today.”

Maybe he’ll buy NHIS. Or maybe he’ll bulldoze Lowes Motor Speedway.

Maybe both.

Bruton Smith is a consummate promoter; the walking, talking reincarnation of P.T. Barnum. Everything he does is big, and plays out on the most grandiose stage imaginable. Friday’s announcement in Texas – no matter what it may be – could trump them all. Or it could be a new associate sponsor for his Las Vegas Busch race.

As Bruton would say, “stay tuned.”

UPDATE: Sirius Speedway has confirmed that Speedway Motorsports, Inc., has purchased New Hampshire International Speedway, with an announcement to come Friday in Texas.

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