Concord (verb) – when a race track/auto dealership magnate threatens a municipality with the removal of a race event, or entire racetrack, in order to get what he wants – refers to what happened to the city of Concord, N.C.
Last week Bruton Smith took his fight with the police chief of Loudon, N.H. public. The ever vocal leader of Speedway Motorsports and Sonic Automotive said he is considering moving a date from the New Hampshire Motor Speedway after struggling to negotiate what he felt was an acceptable bill for police protection. The fight between the two has even reached New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch.
After hearing this I couldn’t help but think I’d seen this play out before with Bruton Smith. Turns out I have.
Let me take you back two and half years. The place: Concord, N.C. Bruton Smith wanted to build a dragstrip on the Charlotte Motor Speedway property. After protests from nearby homeowners, the Concord City Council voted against the dragstrip. Smith’s reaction? He threatened to bulldoze the Charlotte Motor Speedway, and move it somewhere else.
After almost two months of posturing and negotiation, Concord gave in and let Smith build his dragstrip. In addition, they gave him $80 million in incentives, and even renamed the road leading up to the speedway Bruton Smith Blvd.
How’s that for the having the upper hand? After Concording Concord, it looks like he’s Concording Loudon – though this time he may actually come through on his threat.
Since Smith bought NHMS three years ago there has been speculation that eventually the track would lose a date. While the track continues to be a favorite among fans, SMI would like to add dates to Las Vegas and Kentucky. And since Smith doesn’t have the emotional attachment to NHMS that he has to Charlotte, this could be a very convenient excuse (it also allows him to not have make the tough choice somewhere else within his organization).
We’ll see what happens in the weeks and months to come, but the police chief and town of Loudon are playing with fire. I know it’s a bad idea to give into a screaming child, but not doing so here could cost the city and state hundreds of millions of dollars – all over what amounts to about $100,000.
Unfortunately, the people that could stand to suffer most are the small business owners in and around Loudon who depend on the events, and the fans who love NHMS and the different racing it produces.
Here’s hoping this Concording has a happy ending.
Remembering Raymond Parks
NASCAR pioneer, and team owner Raymond Parks passed away Sunday morning. Parks, who was the last living person on hand at the meeting founding NASCAR in late 1947, won the first two championships in the sport – one with Fonty Flock and the other with Red Byron. Though he was not well known to the world, his impact on this sport was immense. Thank you for everything Mr. Parks.
Be sure to check out Ed Hinton’s eloquent eulogy of Raymond Parks.