RICHMOND, Va. -- Tracks in two southern states will lose
Nextel Cup races, and venues in Texas and Arizona will get them as
part of a lawsuit settlement and sweeping NASCAR realignment in
NASCAR said Friday that North Carolina Speedway and Darlington
Raceway in South Carolina will each lose a race, leaving the track
in Rockingham, N.C., without any races and sparking a series of
track sales and wrangling that NASCAR hopes will solve a number of
nagging problems it faces.
Among the changes, North Carolina Speedway will be purchased by
Bruton Smith-led Speedway Motorsports Inc. for $100.4 million as
part of a settlement of a lawsuit that has dragged on for about two
Francis Ferko, a shareholder in SMI, claimed in the suit that
NASCAR had breached agreements by not awarding a second Cup race to
Texas Motor Speedway. Texas will get a second date next November in
The date "is a result of the Ferko settlement, but at the same
time, it fits in perfectly with our realignment plans,'' NASCAR
chairman Brian France said during a news conference at Richmond
He said the settlement effectively makes the lawsuit moot.
"It's a spectacular day, to say the least,'' Texas Motor
Speedway president Eddie Gossage said, adding that there have been
times over the past eight years when he wondered if a second date
would ever come.
"I think once we started mediation sessions last summer, we
knew where we would end up. It was just a matter of getting
there,'' he said.
"My desire, as it has always been, is to continue to help
NASCAR build the sport of stock car racing,'' said Smith, the SMI
chairman, who was not involved in the lawsuit. "Working together
will help build a better sport for fans, participants and corporate
With so many NASCAR teams based in North Carolina, the state is left only with two races that count in the points championship -- the Coca-Cola 600 and the UAW-GM Quality 500, both at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Also, the spring All-Star race outside Charlotte still runs at Lowe's, though speculation has swirled as to whether that non-championship points event will survive if a race were to surface in Seattle.
Phoenix International Raceway also will gain a second race
weekend under the realignment, adding a spring race to the one it
has Nov. 13.
"This is another example of us increasing our visibility in an
area of the country that is truly a hotbed for NASCAR fans,''
Further, Martinsville Speedway, half-owned by the France family,
will be purchased outright by International Speedway Corp. for $192
million with money from the Rockingham sale and another $91.6
million. ISC is about 60 percent owned and controlled by the France
"There comes a point in time when you've got to look at change,
and I think change in this case was inevitable,'' said Martinsville
president Clay Campbell, whose grandfather, Clay Earles, opened the
track in 1947.
"I think (ISC) can carry Martinsville a lot further than we
could ever carry it,'' Campbell said.
"Anything that's been family owned for so long like that,
definitely it pulls on your heart a little bit,'' he said. "But
you can't let your heart make a business decision at all times. ...
We're looking at the bright side rather than the sentimental
Martinsville will retain both of its race dates in the 2005
season, and Campbell will also remain as president under ISC's
The schedule also answers many other questions about 2005.
California Speedway will replace North Carolina as the second
stop of the season, and the Nextel Cup all-star race will return to
Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., now host to the only
races in North Carolina.
The Nextel Cup All-Star Challenge will be run May 21, a week
before the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's, NASCAR's longest race of the
France defended the moves as in the best interest of the sport
and said he regrets that racing at North Carolina Speedway and
Darlington struggled to sell out despite some of the smallest
"We're disappointed that the events didn't work as well as
they've worked in California and other markets,'' he said, adding
that race fans in the Carolinas still have a number of tracks
within traveling distance.
Drivers lamented the loss of two more races in the Carolinas,
but largely viewed the changes as ones that could help the sport
"I think it opens up the possibilities of going to Seattle or
to the Midwest for more events,'' Kyle Petty said. "I think it's
better for the sport. You hate to see things go away, but that's
just part of life.''
France also doesn't expect the lawsuit that sparked the changes
to inspire other lawsuits as tracks look to add additional races.
"We have a history of being very aggressive in defending
NASCAR's business practices,'' he said. "We were aggressive in
this case and we'll continue to be aggressive. There was a solution
in this case that was unique. We were able to find that it would
work for everyone.''
The changes mean North Carolina Speedway will have lost both of
its Nextel Cup weekends in the span of a year. The struggling
track's other date was given to California Speedway at the start of
Darlington, the original NASCAR superspeedway and host through
this year of the prestigious Southern 500, would be left with only
one race -- on Mother's Day weekend -- for the first time since the
The Southern 500 Labor Day date moved this year to California
from Darlington, which had its second race pushed back to Nov. 14.
Lesa France Kennedy, the president of ISC, also said the company
will seek to realign its Busch and Indy Racing League Series races
at Nazareth Speedway in Pennsylvania to other ISC-owned tracks in
the 2005 season.