IHRA, NHRA in Bruton Smith and Bill Bader’s sights?
DRO has been told by enough reliable sources involved with both the NHRA and IHRA (who have asked not to be quoted because negotiations are ongoing) that Bruton Smith is indeed making moves with the intention or acquiring both the NHRA and the IHRA.
Here is what our sources are telling us. Bruton Smith has made legitimate offers to the Bader family and to the IHRA to buy all of the outstanding stock of the IHRA. Bill Bader and his family own 25 percent of the stock and Bill and Bill Jr sit on the board of directors of the IHRA. Reportedly the offer to the Bader family is $2,000,000 for their stock and $8,000,000 to Live Nation for their 75% share of the outstanding IHRA stocks. Reportedly the parties involved have 60 days to make a transaction.
There is one little speed bump, though, which is that both Bill Bader and Live Nation have the right of first refusal when it comes to selling their shares. In other words, Bader has the chance to buy Live Nation’s stock and Live Nation has the right to buy Bader’s shares.
We are also told that Bruton Smith’s purchase of the IHRA would be contingent upon him being able to acquire 100% of the National Hot Rod Association. Many sources inside the Bruton Smith organization have told us off the record that there have been plenty of phone calls between the Smith folks and the NHRA management and that not all of the conversations have been about the Charlotte drag strip.
More indicators that Mr. Smith is turning his attention to drag racing is a quote that he gave a DRO reporter: “Wouldn’t it be a shame if you couldn’t go to a drag race anytime you wanted?” That doesn’t sound like a man who isn’t interested in drag racing.
And here is one more quote for you. In an interview a couple of years ago with DRO editor Jeff Burk, Smith said, “SMI is in the business of race track management and we always need more tracks to manage.”
How does Bill Bader Sr. fit into this continuing soap opera that could have a huge effect on drag racing?
According to our research and sources, Bader does have the financial capability to spend $8,000,000 to buy back the outstanding shares of the IHRA from Live Nation and we know that he still has a very big interest in the IHRA.
So, what if he were to buy back the IHRA? He would then be an owner of one of the NHRA’s best new tracks and be an owner of the IHRA. How would that play with the NHRA? It would have been an unthinkable situation were Wally Parks still alive, but in the current world of drag racing where the dollars always trump history and tradition, one could easily see the board at the NHRA saying “So what.”
The things we know for sure is that the NHRA is for sale and at a minimum 25% of the IHRA is for sale and has been for some time. We also know that Bruton Smith tried to buy the NHRA once before so it is fair to assume he still sees value in the NHRA, especially since he owns many NHRA tracks.
Just as we don’t know the real details of the HD Partners deal and will probably never know for sure what Bruton Smith, Bill Bader, Tom Compton, and Live Nation are doing behind the scenes, one thing is clear. Drag racing is indeed about to go to another level. We just don’t know what that “level” is and where it will lead the sport of drag racing.