The State of the Racetrack Business in 2005

The State of The Racetrack Business in 2005 By: Bill King All through the 1990s, alerts and rumors of racetrack purchases, expansion and construction were a monthly occurrence. There was a vertitable explosion of facility growth as new markets...

The State of The Racetrack Business in 2005
By: Bill King

All through the 1990s, alerts and rumors of racetrack purchases, expansion and construction were a monthly occurrence. There was a vertitable explosion of facility growth as new markets were staked out by four major public corporations: Speedway Motorsports, International Speedway Corp., Penske and Dover Downs Entertainment.

The most recent consolidation resulted from the Ferko suit in Texas that has put North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C. into the SMI camp but left it with no race dates. Desireous rumblings from Daytona Beach of new speedways in the Pacific Northwest and on Staten Island remain just that.

Marcus Smith, SMI's VP for business development, spoke to the current state of the rapidly maturing racetrack ownership game. "From the corporate marketing standpoint, I think that we have done a great job over the last 12 months in making sure all our races are sold. We have one Busch race still for sale at the October event here in Charlotte, but we may have that closed out maybe by the end of the day.

"We had a good '04 and I think we're on track to have a good '05 in corporate sales, so from the business standpoint, things are going well.

"We do have our two naming rights partners at Infineon Raceway (Sears Point) and Lowe's Motor Speedway (Charlotte), and we're talking to people about Atlanta and Texas.

"So we're strategically moving in a direction we need to go. We aren't so interested in having a naming rights partner that we're willing take just any deal. We've had to turn down a few that weren't the right deal. But there are still plenty out there that could be the right fit for us.

"From a company strategy standpoint, we are going to continue to invest in our facilities, make sure that fans have the best facilities for watching a race. We want the environment and experience of going to a race to be the funnest thing they can do with their time and money. We listen to what the fans enjoy; listen to the things are not fun about a race and make changes quickly.

"Our first year in Vegas (SMI's Las Vegas Motor Speedway), my dad (SMI chairman Bruton Smith) and I were looking at the foot traffic patterns from the roof and noticed that there were lines at the bathrooms. Quickly the next race we'd added several restroom facilities outside the grandstand. That's a typical business operation decision."

Owning half of the weed infested North Wilkesboro Speedway from with the first Texas Motor Speedway was plucked and now having inherited the Rockingham track that yielded the much disputed second Texas Motor Speedway date, Smith offered, "It was never really our intention to let North Wilkesboro return as it has to a less habitable state. Rockingham may have some immediate possibilities. There are daily facility rentals that we will continue to operate while looking at other opportunities."

Smith did not feel that Rockingham was a suitable alternative to the recently discussed construction of a NASCAR test track in the Charlotte area close to the majority of the team raceshops. "I think that the proximity to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with its motorsports engineering program adds a lot to the desireability of locating that facility here."

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Series Automotive
Drivers Bill King