Volume IX, Issue 10, Page 12

Concord Backpedals, Bruton Wins...

I'm sure that most of you have been following the on-going saga of the battle between the Concord (N.C.) city council and billionaire Bruton Smith over the drag strip that he wants to build on the grounds of his Lowe's Motor Speedway complex outside of Charlotte.

Bruton's Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) has been considering building a drag strip on the property for quite a few years.  Speculation was that if you build it, they will come.  Along comes NHRA who announce that they'll add a new national event in 2008 at a track to be named later.

Bingo!  No more calls, we have a winner!

The old man breaks out the checkbook and starts construction on the site, which (and this is the big point) is zoned for motorsports.  Well, the word gets around that the drag strip is being built and a couple of hundred homeowners who live nearby organize a grass roots protest and get a meeting with the city council to try to prevent the track from being built.  They're worried about noise and (I'm not making this up) fumes.

Now mind you, all of these protestors live in houses that are only a few years old and they knew when they bought their homes and made the decision to live there, that they had a racing complex as a neighbor.

On Monday, Oct. 1, the town council held an open meeting and the result was that they sided with a few citizens instead of considering the rest of the community and amended the zoning to exclude drag strips.

Stuff hits the fan.  Bruton announces to the world that if he can't build the drag strip he'll move the whole deal -- NASCAR track, dirt track, everything -- somewhere else.  Neighboring counties come a calling offering tax breaks and other incentives. 

Now if you think this was a big ploy by Bruton to force the issue, think again.  Bruton is the guy who bought the North Wilkesboro Speedway to move the NASCAR date to his Texas track, while North Wilkesboro is still sitting around, doing nothing.  Could this happen in Concord?  

To use a drag racing term the Concord city council is backpedaling big time.  They got hammered by not only the rest of the citizens of Concord who know how much money the Speedway brings to town but also the Cabarrus County Economic Development Council who, in so many words, asked the Concord council "Are you guys crazy?"

LMS generated $169 million in tourism spending for Cabarrus last year, nearly 70 percent of the tourism revenue that came into the county, according to the Cabarrus chamber. And speedway property taxes are worth about $1.02.million to the county this year and an additional $722,247 to Concord.

On Oct. 11 another meeting was held. 

The result?  Concord City Council members voted unanimously to work on coming up with a tax incentive package for the $60 million drag strip project and for improvements speedway owner Bruton Smith has floated for the race track.

The final meeting on the subject is Oct. 24, when SMI will present their final plans to the council including noise barriers to alleviate the neighbors’ concerns.

Bottom line is that the council's knee-jerk reaction to a few fanatics was overruled by concerned citizens who wouldn't allow a small percentage of the city's residents to ruin it for everyone.  Plus Bruton's billions didn't hurt either, huh?

Construction is expected to resume the day after the Oct 24 meeting and with the mild winter weather the region experiences, the scheduled spring of 2008 completion date is easily within reach.

We all know how nice Bruton's other drag strips are (Bristol, Las Vegas and Sonoma) and from what I understand he wants this track to be the biggest, best and nicest drag strip ever built.

Will there be an NHRA national event at the track on Sept. 12-14, 2008?  Bet on it.  

--"Berserko" Bob Doerrer