June 28, 2010
Bruton Smith looks like he'd be right at home gambling on a riverboat in the late 19th century, and he's got the attitude down pat. Right about now, he's engaged in some high-stakes poker with Loudon, N.H., over the possibility of yanking a date from the track.
Smith, the chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., is expected to let NASCAR know later this week about his scheduling plans for the 2011 season, plans which could include realignment (and removal) of races, according to Scenedaily.com.
Short version: Smith and the Loudon police department are locking horns over a $170,000 bill for police and fire protection. Smith wields threats the way that kid in those "The Last Airbender" previews wields fire and lightning — with elegant, devastating grace that has the potential for serious collateral damage. He threatened Charlotte — Charlotte! — with the loss of Lowe's Motor Speedway, and ended up getting tax incentives and a drag strip.
Thing is, Loudon is on a lot less firm footing than Lowe's ever was. New Hampshire and Atlanta are the two smallest-drawing races in SMI's portfolio, and if Smith were to take away a race from one of his tracks to award it to Kentucky, it would almost surely come from one of those two. In other words, if you're Loudon, you don't want to give Smith any reason to pick you. (Indeed, conspiracy theorists are already hinting that Smith is using this dispute as a perfect cover for pulling a classic yoink! and grabbing away one date.)
In slightly better news for New Hampshire — a little sugar to make the medicine go down? — Smith did announce that he's bringing an IndyCar Series back to New Hampshire in July 2011. In addition, Smith and IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard indicated that the idea of an Indy 500/Coke 600 Memorial Day double-dip for $20 million might just come to pass after all.
Speaking as a NASCAR observer, perhaps some of that money could be rerouted to New Hampshire. Speaking as an Atlanta race aficionado, though, I sure hope not. (Sorry, Loudon.)
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