- Auto Racing - Officials say NASCAR promised additional race

Tuesday, January 23
Officials say NASCAR promised additional race

FORT WORTH, Texas -- With consistent sellouts and strong TV ratings, Texas Motor Speedway officials are certain the track deserves a second Winston Cup event.

"We've already earned it many times over. I don't think earning it now is a factor at all," TMS owner Bruton Smith said Tuesday. "I want NASCAR to do what they said they would. They are many justifications why another event should be here."

Since Texas opened in 1997, all four Winston Cup races have sold out and also drawn some of the circuit's best TV ratings. There were more than 220,000 people at last year's DirecTV 500 won by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Still, Smith has never actually been given a Winston Cup date at Texas Motor Speedway. Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc., which also owns five other tracks, bought half the racing facility in North Wilkesboro, N.C., and moved one of that track's races to Texas.

When NASCAR added two Winston Cup races for 2001, they were in Joliet, Ill., and Kansas City, Kan., new tracks owned by International Speedway Corp., which is run by the same group that controls NASCAR. Before that, the last race added was in 1999 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, another ISC track.

"I see where the events have been put, arbitrarily been put," Smith said. "They are not fulfilling promises."

Smith and Eddie Gossage, TMS's general manager, both said NASCAR promised to give another Winston Cup race to Texas by a date that passed more than a year ago.

NASCAR'S director of operations, Kevin Triplett, not saying if there was such a promise, said the organization's goal is to explore growth in new areas, such as the additions for 2001.

"Our stance has not change in that regard," Triplett said. "The four races in Texas have been successful and we are pleased with that, but there are a lot of other tracks that have been on the schedule longer asking for a second date."

The two new tracks both have about 75,000 seats. Texas Motor Speedway has 154,861 permanent seats with room for about 53,000 spectators in the infield.

"The two new dates they gave don't equal one date here," Gossage said.

With the two new races, there will be 37 Winston Cup weekends from the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 to the season-ending race in Atlanta on Nov. 18. The only weekends without races are on Easter and Mother's Day, traditionally quiet days for NASCAR.

That's a full calendar for NASCAR, making the push for another date even more difficult for Smith and Texas. The best hope is to take over another date already on the schedule.

As in years past, there are rumors that Rockingham, N.C., and/or Darlington, S.C., could lose one of their two dates. That could happen by next year.

"I'm hearing the same thing. The latest I heard was that was an absolute, whatever that means," Smith said. "We just have to wait. We're going to have some meetings."

Even without a second Winston Cup race, there is a full 2001 schedule at Texas Motor Speedway. The Fort Worth facility will be the only in the country to feature every major form of American automobile racing.

NASCAR will run Winston Cup, Busch series and two truck races at TMS. Texas will also host the Indy Racing League CART and American Le Mans Series.

"It is significant in motorsports to have the schedule we have," Gossage said.

Gossage said there are only about 16,000 tickets remaining for the Harrah's 500 Winston Cup race April 1. And there are no plans this have about 16,000 temporary seats in place for the race.

Also Tuesday, Winston Cup driver Steve Park was helping NASCAR conduct aerodynamic testing at the track. Gossage said there was a good chance that some form of restrictor plates, similar to those at Talladega, would be used at his 1½-mile oval.