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UPDATED: Smith Threatens to Move October Race to Vegas, Then Backs Off

May 21, 2013 02:50PM ● Published by Jason Huddle

Concord - In an interview with WBTV (CBS Channel 3), Bruton Smith, owner of Speedway Motorsports, Inc.(SMI), alluded to the possibility of moving the annual October race at Charlote Motor Speedway, to it's sister track in Las Vegas. “I’d say (the chances) are about 70/30," Smith told WBTV. Then, in a statement this afternoon, he seemed to back off his earlier comments. "The ‘done deal’ report by WBTV regarding moving a race is false. No final decision has been made regarding any race date move, and I have not discussed this with NASCAR," he said.

Although Smith, nor any other representative of SMI verbalized it. There is a possibility that Smith's statements are meant to leverage his position in ongoing legal battles with the City of Concord. Smith sued the city last year after he said it failed to comply with it's agreement to provide improvements to infrastructure around the speedway in order to keep Smith from abandoning the entire motor sports complex and build a new one in a different area. Indeed, in a statement from SMI, Smith seemed to take a swipe at local officials.

“Instead of what ‘could’ happen, let’s set the facts straight about what has happened," Smith's statement said. "We’ve invested $100 million in the Charlotte Motor Speedway complex in the past six years to make it even better for the fans. We’ve expanded our fan zone, added pit road suites and built the world’s largest HDTV for every fan to enjoy. We’ve put more people to work with these projects and we’ve added more events to the calendar to bring in more tourists and fans. And we’ve done this during the worst economy since the Great Depression.

The statement continued, "We’ve done this without asking for a handout from the government, like we’ve seen from so many other sports facilities, teams or franchises, and yet at the same time property values are falling during the recession, our Cabarrus County taxes have doubled since 2005. We absolutely love the fans that come to Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s frustrating to think about the future and consider that the local government doesn’t share the same excitement about Charlotte Motor Speedway that our fans do. The Cabarrus County politicians may say nice things to the media, but raising taxes does not support the tourism business, the area economy or companies trying to grow.”

For it's part, the city released a statement indicating the loss of the October race would be a tremendous loss to the area. "The City of Concord hopes that Charlotte Motor Speedway will continue to have events on the Sprint Cup schedule in October," the statement said. "Motorsports is an important part of the tourism economy in Cabarrus County, and brings over one million fans, vendors, and participants annually. This benefits local businesses who serve race fans multiple times each year. Race fans from near and far have enjoyed the October race for years and mark it on their calendars."

The statement went on to say that, "There are regional boosts in tourism during NASCAR events, and we are proud to host three major Sprint Cup events each year, welcoming the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to explore the area and motorsports-related events, attractions, and behind-the-scenes tours. The City of Concord works with our partners to prepare for these events and to ensure the safety of these visitors, and will continue to do so in the future."

Former SMI president, H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler agreed with the city that moving the race would be devastating to the area. “I don’t know what else could occur to disappoint the Southern race fan that has brought us to where we are,” he told the Charlotte Observer. “They lost North Wilkesboro, Rockingham and half of Darlington (S.C.). It would also be a great loss for Charlotte Motor Speedway and this area.”

According to NASCAR officials, they have received no formal requests to move the race for the 2014 season, which they have begun the process of scheduling.

According to Smith, there is one factor that will ultimately decide the race's fate, he told WBTV. “When the game is over, it’ll be money, money, money. Money will move it."

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