|SMI's Bruton Smith|
Now, SMI owner/CEO Bruton Smith wants that suit reinstated.
Lawyers for SMI will appear before a three-judge panel in the NC State Court of Appeals tomorrow to argue that county officials made a verbal commitment in 2007 to provide those incentives, after Smith threatened to move Charlotte Motor Speedway’s thriving motorsports complex to South Carolina. City and county officials offered an appeasement package at that time, renaming the road adjoining the track “Bruton Smith Boulevard” and offering a series of tax breaks worth an estimated $80 million.
That agreement was never put to paper until a year later, however, after the drag strip had already been built. Terms of the written agreement would have required SMI to wait up to 40 years for full reimbursement of infrastructure and facility improvements, and Smith sued in 2009, claiming that the county “has received what it bargained for, and seeks now to avoid its return promise."
Attorneys for the county insist it was Smith’s decision to build the drag strip before finalizing their agreement, adding, "This was an agreement to agree, which is not an agreement at all.”
The motorsports industry generates an estimated $6 billion dollars of revenue per year in North Carolina, much of it in Cabarrus County, which is home for a majority of NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series teams. SMI – which owns eight tracks hosting NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events nationwide -- reported profits of $42.1 million last year on revenues of $490 million.
The three-judge panel will meet tomorrow to determine whether the suit should be reinstated. A decision is not expected until June or July.