ISC and SMI submit realignment plans for 2011
NASCAR knows what the track-operating companies want in the 2011 Sprint Cup schedule and is now trying to see if it can fulfill the wishes of Speedway Motorsports Inc. and International Speedway Corp. ISC has announced that it wants to realign a Cup date to Kansas Speedway, a condition of ISC’s landing a casino license for the track, while SMI has not announced any part of its realignment request.
“We have heard from the public companies and the track operators as to some of their wishes,” NASCAR Chairman Brian France said Friday morning during his midseason news conference at Daytona International Speedway. “We are digesting that now and working with them. We typically put our schedule out, as you well know, usually around Labor Day, give or take a couple of weeks here or there.
“It’s my hope we’ll meet that goal. There are obviously now new requests from SMI and ISC. They’ve followed the policy that we have laid out on realignment. We’ll have to see how it all fits into the greater schedule as we go in the next couple weeks.”
The France family-controlled ISC has not said which track it wants to move a race from to Kentucky. ISC’s current smallest venues – all under 100,000 seats – with two dates are Auto Club Speedway, Martinsville and Phoenix.
SMI has two Cup Series races at Charlotte, Bristol, Texas, New Hampshire and Atlanta as well as one at Las Vegas and Infineon. It doesn’t have a Cup date at Kentucky Speedway, which SMI purchased last year.
Atlanta and New Hampshire are the two smallest venues in terms of seating capacity that have two races in SMI’s Cup portfolio. SMI Chairman Bruton Smith has said he wants a Cup date for Kentucky and possibly a second Cup date at Las Vegas.
NASCAR has not denied any recent realignment request from any public corporation to move dates within its portfolio but NASCAR does have the final say. France said one of the biggest issues is just how the change fits into the schedule.
“it starts with what’s best for the fan base in a market, in a region, wherever we’re talking about,” France said. “We’ll take a look at that. Then there’s the size of markets that obviously matters in some way. Lots of things go into it.
“But in the end, it’s got to work for the track operator. If it’s not financially working as well as it could work somewhere else, by definition it’s not working for the fans as well either. So we look at all those things. It’s why we’ve got to make the decision on that because we’re the only ones that have the entire industry’s best interest going with our fans at any one time.”
Smith can request NASCAR to realign a race to Kentucky now that an antitrust lawsuit brought by the track’s original founders ended in late May with NASCAR prevailing. NASCAR had refused to consider a realignment request until that case was resolved.
“I’d hate to put off until next year what we ought to be doing this year,” Smith said last week at New Hampshire. “There was a lawsuit up there; that lawsuit finally went away. But that did slow us down a bit. … It did slow us down, but we’re going to accelerate now.”
Smith has said he wants to add 50,000 seats to the 69,000-seat Kentucky facility.
“We would have liked to have that [suit] to have ended months and months earlier; it would have provided us a chance to make some plans but it did deter our plans some,” Smith said.
SMI spokesman Scott Cooper said the company had no comment on realignment at this time.