Sunday, October 07, 2007

How far can Smith vs. Concord go?

This business about Bruton Smith thinking about building a new track to replace Lowe's Motor Speedway interests me on a lot of levels.

First, it's great theater. Smith has a lot of showman in his soul, and he certainly got racing and his facility on the front page of my newspaper with this week's public relations gambit.

But I think it's crazy for people to think Smith is just trying to sell tickets for the Bank of America 500. I don't see how that works. Are fans sitting around saying, "Gosh, we'd better go see the race at Charlotte next week before they close the track?" I doubt that.

Is Smith already trying to creat a "buzz" about the drag strip he wants to build near the current track? Maybe, but there would be a "newness" to drag racing in Charlotte the first few years and I think drag racing has enough fans to fill up the stands for a National Hot Rod Association event next September if that comes off.

What I keep wondering is what happened? Smith told me this week that he had a meeting in his office six weeks ago where he showed economic development officials connected with the city of Concord his plans for the drag strip that started all of this. He read their names to me off the business cards he collected at the meeting.

The folks in Concord say they had no idea Smith had started moving dirt, though. That's entirely possible, since talking about doing something and actually doing it are two different things. But the people in Concord have been doing business with Smith for years and they have to know that Smith isn't the kind to ease into a project.

But somewhere, somehow, somebody convinced the mayor and the city of Concord to call a special meeting last Monday night and change the zoning rules to speficially prohibit Smith from building a drag strip.

Was it a simple matter of Concord being upset about Smith going headlong into action without signing off on everything with them, or was it because there are people who've built homes near the track in the past few years who have enough clout, for some reason, to back Concord into a corner where it had to take some kind of stand against Smith that now has blown up into the current mess?

Here's where we are now. If Smith builds a drag strip at the current location of Lowe's Motor Speedway, it's going to look like he made Concord back down. If Concord doesn't cave, Smith might be forced to show that he's willing to back up the talk he's done about taking his racing franchise elsewhere in the Charlotte market.

When it gets to that point, egos are a factor. Smith has a huge one, there's no question about that. But don't make the mistake of thinking the people on the other side of this don't have at lot a stake in this, too.

It takes two sides to have an argument, and each side is always going to be convinced that it's the other one that's being stubborn.

The scary thing is that sometimes both sides dig in so far that nobody can really afford to give ground. But eventually, something has got to give.


safemike1 said...

Smith is blowing hot air. It would cost untold millions to back up his threat. And then there are the condo's that he would also have to take into consideration.

Smith is used to getting his own way. But this time, as soon as someone said no to him, he threatens to pack up his toys and move. This is not going to happen, no matter what Concord decides.

Sure he could tear down the track and build housing units, but, that will take several years to do. And even getting a new track will take years. So Mr. Smith, do as we do in the South. Sit back and get yourself a nice cold glass of ice tea (sweetened of course) and take a deep breath.

Anonymous said...

Safemike1, It is appaerent that your not from around here are you?(it's sweet tea here) I don't doubt what Bruton might do, When I first heard of the "rub up" Rowan County came to mind, off of 150 between Mooresvile, Salsbury, and Kannapolis!! The man comp;etly re-did Las Vegas, Don't put it past him to back up his words, I know David you'd have to drive a wee bit kinda makes ya go Hmmmmm! #5

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NH_NascarFan said...

No matter what happens, Smith wins... he may be blowing hot air, but he WILL back it up and he has the millions - no, billions - to do that. If Concord caves, he wins... if not, he gets a bigger facility and probably makes even more money in the long run. And Concord? Left with a gigantic vacant lot in what used to be the racing capital of the south. Until Smith decides to develop HIS land and makes even more money.

The only thing for Concord to do now, in order to save face, is to give Smith what he wants while making it look as though they came to some sort of an agreement to address the noise complaints - like no drag racing between 1am and 5am LOL

Anonymous said...

If Lowe's Motor Speedway were to leave Concord it would not be bad for the economy...IT WOULD BE CATOSTROPHIC!! Ever been to an old west mining town?

The history up there can't be rebuilt elsewhere.

Obviously no one takes responsibility for their own actions anymore. Buyer beware: if you build a house in a location next to a nationally known race facility, it may expand (gasp!!)

John - Harrisburg (near the track) said...

Cabarrus county has lost Pillowtex, Phillip Morris has announced that they are shutting down production. Now, Concord goes out of it's way to alienate Bruton Smith?

Hey, I live in the area and they've been moving dirt on this for weeks, Concord KNEW. Now, they pull this. The mayor is an idiot on this one!

Make no mistake, Smith WILL move the speedway unless Concord backs down. Oh, and he is talking about building an airport there too, goodbye Concord Regional Airport. Also, what happens to all those hotels that depend on the speedway to survive?

Here is the main thing. The speedway has been there for 50 years... people come in and buy houses next to it and all of a sudden, they think they should be able to dictate what happens on that property which was already zoned for motor sports!

This is an unconstitutional disregard for private property rights. The mayor of Concord should take his place beside Mike Nifong as a classic examply of the type of abuse of power our Constitution was specifically written to prevent!

Anonymous said...

Man I'd LOVE to lice that close to the Speedweay!...Right now it's 70 miles, The REAL arguement should be HOW can the City of Concoed and it's Council members hold a special session change a zoning law, WITHOUT notifying the public and and properties affected, Seems to me that the Mayor and his constituents have NOW painted themselves into a "Illegal" corner?!!!

brian said...

even if smith takes his business elsewhere and builds a drag strip in the middle of nowhere someone is going to come along and want to build houses or schools or shopping centers or something nearby. and then the gripes about noise come.

this dragstrip would bring in some serious money in this area for sure. besides the sanctioned events, im sure mr smith would have test n tune days like every other drag strip. this brings in tons of money as these nights are always well attended by both spectators and racers alike. not to mention there would likely be a large decline in local street racing as this gives them an avenue to pursue some legal fun.

i support everything youre doing mr smith. keep it up. its time someone put their foot down. afterall, who gets to stop the city from building stadiums even after taxpayers said no. nobody!!
so why let the city control what you can do with your property. the facility was there before the homes. if you dont like the noise..MOVE!!!! you knew it was there when you bought your house so quit complaining. ok im off my soapbox.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Poole:
Excellent column! I've been going to the NASCAR races at CMS/LMS for several years and I have noticed the residential build-up has increased at a fast pace, especially north of Smith's property. I would believe a major factor weighing with Mr. Smith would be further ordinances within ten years (more or less) over noise or other issues which would render his motor racing property nearly worthless aside from the value of the land itself, should residential housing continue to enroach on his facility. If, as I read, he was planing to put many millions of dollars of improvements into CMS/LMS and the city of Concord didn't rezone much of the surrounding land to act as a buffer, then he would be prudent to look for another site which zoning issues could be worked out and last for decades into the future. Mr. Smith's at the age where, if he didn't care about the future of his business, he could simply throw up his arms and accept Concord's actions.
Tom in Ohio.

blpadge2 said...

For those of you who believe Bruton Smith is blowing hot air about leaving Concord, I want to mention two towns to you, North Wilkesboro and Rockingham. Go ask the folks in those towns what happens when Bruton decides to play hardball and take racing elsewhere. Me personally, I have never forgiven him for dethroning North Carolina as the king of multiple NASCAR races. The only way I go to races at Lowe's is if I get in free. However, the man was smart to kill the competition in NC to make Lowe's that much more valuable.

As for building a new speedway somewhere else I don't doubt he would do it. The speedway's basic infrastructure and design is approaching 50 years old, and building from scratch like Texas would let him correct any errors made by him and Curtis Turner that he has had to live with or build around.

The only immediate winner I see in this would be the town of Harrisburg. I'm old enough to remember when the PO Box for ordering tickets was there. The only reason the Speedway has a Concord address was a spot annexation so Humpy & Bruton could sell alcohol at the track. Now that business deal is biting him in the butt. If Harrisburg were to approve liquor sales, then I'm sure Bruton would love to force Concord to deannex the Speedway so Harrisburg could pick it up. Then the homeowners with Concord addresses would have no where to complain, and I'm sure Harrisburg would love the addition to its tax base. Don't think this could happen? I'll bet a million or so dollars dropped in the right re-election campaigns for NC legislators is a lot cheaper than building a new speedway.

rt said...

I understand what you're saying about egos, and agree, up to a point. However, moving the track would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Would Smith really dump that much cash just to stoke his ego and stick it to Concord? I find it hard to believe that he could have that much money on hand, and yet be such a bad businessman as to use it in that way.

Monkeesfan said...

The thing about Bruton is he does things on impulse all the time - he had Charlotte built on impulse, he built Texas on impulse. Concord should say no to whatever he's asking here, because it's about time he be told not to do something.

NH_NascarFan said...


He doesnt care if he is told no, no matter what scenario ends up happening, he will end up making tons of money in th ened. If he builds his drag strip, he wins and makes tons of money. If Concord says no, some county government will give him the world to re-locate there and he will have a brand new track; not to mention developing the land left behind in Concord and making even more money. No matter what happens, financially he wins.

Monkeesfan said...

NH NASCAR Fan, that may be true, but regardless I'm hoping in some way he is finally humbled by someone - in his decades in racing I've never seen him humbled by anyone.

Anonymous said...

if i am not mistaken.that is how talladega came about. daytona didn,t want to work with the france family. they took their money and built talladega to show daytona they really didn,t need that arena .daytona decided they probably should play ball. said...

I thought Mr.Smith should lay down his pride and give it to the Concord rather to sell it to the Bank of America. Transferring a new track would took a few years to built and construct it. Because it was already a heritage in that said track race.

NH_NascarFan said...

Hey looks like Bruton won...

Anyone really surprised?

Monkeesfan said...

How far can this fight go? All the way to yet another Bruton foe - in this case Concord's local government - blinking.

Darn, it's long past time Bruton got some comeuppance for a change.

Monkeesfan said...

anonymous - that is a great point about Talladega. Chris Economaki goes into some detail about Daytona vs. the speedway in his autobiography.

Austin said...

Brute Smith is bluffing The idiot would have to spend 500 million for a new track and guess what...nascar has a say in where races go. Why didn't Brute move when charlotte made him replant all those trees he cut down? If he doesn't want to be bothered with noise issues perhaps he should have owned all that land those houses are sitting. All of Concord government looks like idiots too now. Brute says jump and they say how high master. Geez.

Anonymous said...

Separate from all this about moving, is that the NHRA should be in NC. I first saw them in Rockingham and was amazed at the speed and the noise-and the accessability of the drivers. I met John Force outside his trailer and he signed autographs for a long time, and then posed for a photo with my brother. If you are a NASCAR fan, you'd like NHRA.

Read some of Thomas Pope's (Fayetteville newspaper) old stuff about it. You can walk Into the area where the crews work on the cars-it is so fan friendly you can't help but like NHRA.

I admit neighbors would have a beef on days they race, because the noise of the funny cars and top fuel is unreal. The first time I heard a top fuel at the Rock I thought something had exploded-I realized I was bent over covering my ears, and the cars were at the other end of the track. The noise gets into your body and you feel it, unlike anything you've seen in NASCAR.

But if you move near a race track....well, it seems like people who live under a flight path of an airport complaining about-airplanes.

Monkeesfan said...

David, I read your suggestions if B.S. does build a new track.

You're wrong about thinking smaller, they need to think BIGGER. The Winston Cup level of this sport is about SUPERSPEEDWAYS. We need more 2.5-milers. As for luxury suites, I'm mixed on this; it's not a big issue for me, but I do feel it's time the sport stopped catering to the businessmen and built for ordinary fans - make the businessmen have to mingle with the ordinary fans instead of isolating them in luxury suites.

And B.S. shouldn't be the only one thinking along those lines - Fontana is a useless demographic; build a 2.5-mile superoval like Talladega up in the Hanford, CA area where Hanford Speedway used to be.

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