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SMI DISMISSES FIVE GUARDS AFTER ACTION AGAINST JOURNALIST
Published May 10, 1999
Five security guards at Lowe's Motor Speedway were fired Friday for "roughing up" a Charlotte Observer photographer and "seizing" his cameras and film after last week's accident in which three spectators were killed at the VisionAire 500, according to Foon Rhee of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. LMS President Humpy Wheeler said the track employs "approximately" 200 part-time security staffers and that they "will get trained in new policies" before NASCAR races later this month "to prevent this from happening again." Videotape shows about a half-dozen security guards "surrounding" Observer photographer Todd Sumlin, pushing him and grabbing cameras from around his neck. The cameras were later returned, but a roll of film was "destroyed." Wheeler: "It was an unfortunate situation for everyone involved. While no one from speedway management directed or instructed the action taken during the incident, we still deeply regret it happened" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/8). WILL SPONSORS RETURN? The SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Bill King examines Lowe's association with the tragedy through its naming rights deal at the Charlotte speedway. Lowe's execs said they had "not begun to assess the impact of the association on their business." Lowe's Senior VP/Marketing Gregory Bridgeford: "We really haven't focused on anything but the personal aspects of this tragedy." But David Paro, VP/ProServ's consulting division, said of the tragic incident at Lowe's: "I hate to admit it, but it will hurt the naming-rights situation in motorsports" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/10 issue). VisionAire has not decided whether it will remain as title sponsor of the IRL event, even if the race returns to Charlotte. VisionAire Chair Jim Rice: "Whether you keep the race or not, I don't know." Communications Concepts and Sports Media Challenge President Kathleen Hessert said that VisionAire and other sponsors "were saved" by LMS management's decision to cancel the race after the severity of the accident was determined. Hessert: "If they had kept racing here, VisionAire would have been bombarded" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/10 issue).