NASCAR President Mike
Helton announced phase one of "Realignment 2004" on Friday afternoon
at Michigan Speedway, which involved a shuffling of dates between
North Carolina Speedway, Darlington Raceway and California Speedway.
California Speedway will
host a second NASCAR event in 2004 on Labor Day weekend. The
September 5th event will start at 5 p.m. Pacific time providing the
race with a prime time slot on the East Coast for NBC.
"Today is a day that has
been seven years in the making," said Bill Miller, California
Speedway President, adding the race would be sponsored by Pop
Secret, the same company that sponsored North Carolina Speedway's
now lost November date.
Darlington Raceway holds
onto two dates, with the second visit to the track in 2004 now
scheduled for November 14th, the next to the last race on the
John Saunders, President
of International Speedway Corporation, says the changes are best for
the fans, the media, the teams, the shareholders and the sport.
"We are pleased NASCAR
has looked favorably on our proposal," said Saunders, adding that
ISC would not abandon North Carolina Speedway. "We have not plans to
go beyond realignment 2004."
Chris Browning took the move in stride saying his charge would now
be to concentrate on selling out his single Winston Cup event while
searching out additional ways to make use of the facility outside of
Winston Cup racing. Losing the second date will likely cost the
community $25 million dollars in economic impact.
Saunders is confident
North Carolina will survive. "We have several tracks that survive
quite well with just one date. They learn to adjust cost, structure
their personnel more appropriately and pursue other events to
generate income. Everything we have modeled says Rockingham will
survive can single date."
This is not the first
time, in the 54-year history of NASCAR, that tracks have lost dates.
When the schedule was realigned in 1972 a large number of small
facilities didn't make the cut. However, this is Darlington and
Rockingham and this is a piece of tradition long time fans are
having a time accepting.
To those people Mike
Helton says, "this is an opportunity to grow the sport in a modern
Tradition aside, the
move by ISC to shuffle dates between North Carolina Speedway,
Darlington Raceway and California Speedway was something the largest
track operator in motor sports could not avoid.
Being a publicly traded
company means answering to your investors , even if the answer
smacks the face of tradition right across the nose.
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