The wealthy France family and the wealthy Penske family
are the major shareholders in International Speedway Corporation (ISC),
owners of numerous large superspeedways in the USA, including Daytona and
Homestead (just south of Miami) in Florida. When ISC got wind of the
news that ALMS and CART might be racing in the streets of Miami again,
things got ugly in a hurry.
As the saying goes, the rich
get richer....and in this case it's at the expense of the tax payers.
For example, did you know that Daytona Speedway is in a special tax-exempt
district in Daytona in spite of the fact that they make millions in profits
every year? That's right, Daytona Speedway pays no taxes because it
argues that the benefits it brings to Daytona in tourism far exceed the
taxes the Speedway would pay. It's been that way since the track was
built in the 50's. So when Daytona tried to impose taxes on Daytona
Speedway recently, ISC cried foul and won.
representatives are constantly going to the legislature in Florida asking
for, and getting, more and more subsidies from the local government, while
the poor tax payer must always pay.
Except for Watkins Glen,
a natural terrain road course, ISC is in the business of putting on oval
track races. And it's the best in the business at doing it. They
also run some oval track infield road races that draw small crowds.
Ironically, however, when they saw that Raceworks might move into their Dade
County turf in southern Florida with a downtown Miami street race, all of a
sudden they became very interested.
ISC, hiding behind
Homestead-Miami Speedway LLC, which it owns, has done everything in their
power to stop the Miami street race, including making contradicting public
statements. They have written legal letters to create bad publicity
around the event, tried to stop them from getting building permits, opposed
them getting licensure, took out full page ads in the Miami papers
denouncing the event, and even pressured Brian Redman to not bring his
historic racing series in for the weekends events with the ALMS and TransAm.
In deposition by Curtis Gray, President of Homestead-Miami Speedway LLC, he
admitted Homestead-Miami Speedway LLC paid for several advertisements
arguing against racing in the streets of the City of Miami, saying "street
races are financial failures." Their lobbying efforts led to the City
of Homestead to pass a resolution on June 4, 2001 opposing a street race in
On July 10, 2001 Jorge Lopez, their attorney, spoke
to the City of Miami Commission advising them against a street race in
Miami. At that same City Commission meeting, the City Manager of the
City of Homestead testified that she believed that a street race in the City
of Miami would hurt the City of Homestead (Miami City Commission transcript
dated July 26, 2001)
Miami has been hurt bad by the recent
recession, their tourism has been down dramatically. They were
counting on this race to bring them some badly needed tourist dollars and
international exposure. ISC is contesting a contract that will have a
huge impact on the tourism and economic revitalization of the downtown Miami
area at a time when those businesses in that area have been ravaged by the
9/11 terrorist impacts on travel and tourism. They recently went on
record saying they demanded an opportunity to bid on the race and it was
unfairly awarded to Raceworks without going out to bid. At all the
prior City Commission meetings they never stated they wanted an opportunity
to bid for the race in Miami.
Why would an oval track company
want to bid on an event that months earlier they stated would lose money?
Why? Because it's ISC pushing their weight around to protect their
track in Homestead, which, except for their Winston Cup date, has been a
financial disaster. My sources in Miami tell me they sold about 15,000
tickets for last weekends IRL race and 10,000 of those were bought by
Marlboro, the sponsor of.....who else? Roger Penske, who is a major
shareholder in.....what else? ISC.
The fact is that ISC is having a hard time making a
success out of the Homestead track (an oval) yet they think they can now
do a good job putting on a street race, a type of racing they said are
financial disasters. In Homestead their track was originally a lease
deal, but they persuaded Homestead to change it to a licensing deal so
they would not have to pay any taxes, claiming they were losing money and
needed the tax breaks, this from a poor town that needs every tax dollar
they can get. Wealthy ISC, paying no taxes, just like in Daytona.
Ironically, their Homestead track was built by Ralph Sanchez (and later
sold to Roger Penske who sold it to ISC) with post Hurricane Andrew relief fund
grants and bonds that are paid back
from hotel taxes, 40% of which are derived in the City of Miami. In
other words, ISC is getting free money from Miami taxes to pay for their
race track, yet are doing everything in their power to deny the City of
Miami the rewards that come with having a race of their own. Sounds
rather hypocritical if you ask me.
And this has infuriated
the City Of Miami Mayor. He's now on the attack to win at all costs,
especially when ISC was successful Monday in getting the Miami-Dade District
judge to rule the Raceworks contract null and void because it was not put
out to competitive bid. When was the last time ISC built a track
whereby they had to bid for it?
One things for certain, Chris
Pook would not have put CART's name and reputation on the Miami race
Tuesday, if he wasn't certain of victory over the wealthy ISC corporation's
attempts to undermine the people of Miami, Raceworks, the Hispanic race fans
of Miami, and ALMS and CART. It's no secret that there have been
numerous complaints of lack of promotion of CART races at ISC venues (most
have failed), and that ISC has developed close business ties with the IRL
and the wealthy Hulman George family, another oval-racing entity.
it was Bill France Jr. himself that started the GrandAm series as direct
competition to ALMS. Some say it's the divide and conquer theory -
divide CART (create the IRL) and divide ALMS (create the GrandAm) and bring
them to their knees. Wouldn't it be in the wealthy France and Hulman
George family's best interest if the only thing left standing was NASCAR and
the IRL? With all other race series out of the way, the sponsors and
fan money would be their's for the picking. Sounds a little like the
monopoly empire Microsoft has built.
After doing some
research, we found there's many ways to skin a cat, and the race will go on
in October as planned. And what a huge event it will be, much to the
dismay of ISC, Homestead-Miami Raceway LLC, Roger Penske and the France
family. For the first time, CART, ALMS and TransAm will come together
for a big tripleheader weekend of action-packed road racing. The CART
event sold out in 1995 when it was held a few hundred yards north of its new
location. In 1995 TV and radio stations were telling people on
Saturday to stay home on Sunday, if they didn't already have a race ticket,
as there was no room to fit anymore people at the event.
years race is likely to be an even bigger hit than in 1995.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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