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ISC mothballs Northwest plans
If anybody can handle last Sunday’s Talladega mess, it’s Grant Lynch, a transplanted Winston-Salem native who has been one of the France family’s go-to men since he left R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. to join its International Speedway Corp.

Lynch will be doing damage control while NASCAR moves on to another ISC track, Richmond International Raceway. Qualifying is today at 6:10 p.m. for Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. start of the sport’s fourth car-of-tomorrow race.

Lynch, whose primary job is running Talladega Superspeedway for the Frances, is the man who helped put together ISC’s highly successful Kansas City and Chicago tracks.

But he was less successful in the Pacific Northwest, where things haven’t gone as well. The ISC’s Seattle project, a planned 84,000-seat track in sight of downtown, across Puget Sound, has been put on hold.

“The governor (Christine Gregoire) said some nice things about our project, and she said some nice things about the numbers, and our numbers were solid - the office of financial management for the state said our numbers were based on sound reasoning,” Lynch said. “But she wouldn’t get behind it.

“So we’ve told them we will have to have solid support from the bottom up, from local politicians, and from the top down, before we come back.”

The problems the France family have run into recently in gaining political support for new tracks could be tied to Reynolds’ withdrawal from the sport three years ago and the failure of NASCAR to put together a solid grass-roots racing program nationally to succeed the Winston Racing Series. That provided the sport’s major-league division with dynamic and productive support in communities throughout the country.

That missing piece to the sport’s puzzle is a major marketing failure for NASCAR and for series sponsor Nextel, which still sometimes seems lost when trying to market it.

RJR marketers understood, right from the start, that NASCAR needs to work from the bottom up, maybe even more than from the top down.

Perhaps stronger grass-roots efforts in Southern California might help save struggling California Speedway.

Earlier this year, NASCAR sent Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Washington native Greg Biffle to that state to promote its Seattle venture, only to be curtly dismissed by area politicians.

Lynch did a yeoman’s job of stumping through the Pacific Northwest.

“We worked to get a bill passed (in Washington state), and we had nine local (Kitsap County) legislators - the important thing for people to understand is they invited us to this county, and we built a tremendous broad base of support, across all spectrums of society,” Lynch said. “All the unions were behind us, and all the chambers of commerce, and 53 different organizations representing over three-quarters of a million people…. But we couldn’t turn one of those legislators to get them behind the project. And it became apparent that the leadership in both houses wasn’t going to stuff it down their throat.

“So we decided we’d tried hard enough. We told them when we left that we’re still very interested in the Pacific Northwest, but they’re going to have to get serious about wanting us there. We laid out a very good financial plan for them, we showed them what the benefits were to the state and the region. And we said we’ll come back if they get serious.”  More at Winston Salem Journal

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