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SBD/Issue 163/Leagues & Governing Bodies
East To West? NASCAR Rebuts Reports Of Second Race In Cali
Published May 19, 2003
|NASCAR Says Southern 500
Not Going Anywhere, Yet
NASCAR VP/Corporate Communications Jim Hunter denied reports that NASCAR would grant California Speedway a second annual Winston Cup date on Labor Day Weekend, which would end Darlington Raceway's 54-year tradition of hosting the Southern 500 over that holiday weekend, according to David Poole of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Under the reported move, Darlington would keep two annual dates, and North Carolina Speedway would have only one race in '04. Hunter: "It is not a done deal to my knowledge. That is one of the scenarios that somebody could play around with under [NASCAR's realignment plan]. But no decision has been made, no sanctioning agreements have been signed. They're just now starting the process with the tracks, talking about the schedule, dates, purses, the points fund and all of those things. They're in the very early stages of that right now" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/17). But today, Poole cites sources as saying that teams "are being told it's safe to start making corporate hospitality plans for a night race" at California on Labor Day Weekend next year (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/19). Hunter, on Darlington possibly losing its Labor Day Weekend event, "I think NASCAR is sensitive to (tradition), but the bigger issue is that tracks, being publicly held companies, have an obligation to the shareholders to maximize those facilities. You've got one [Darlington] where it's difficult to sell 60,000 seats, and you have another [California] where you have 90,000 or 100,000. You want to move a date from an underperforming asset to another one, and we said back in January that we would look favorably on that" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 5/18). California, Darlington and Rockingham are all properties of ISC (THE DAILY). NASCAR COO George Pyne said that "there is a strong desire at NASCAR to add races in major markets" like L.A. Pyne: "Other than Lakers games, NASCAR is the most-watched sporting event on [TV] in [L.A.]." Pyne, on realignment: "We typically make just one or two [schedule] changes at a time, and we'll stick to that for the next year. ... We will look at taking races where there is more demand than supply" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 5/17). In Nashville, Larry Woody: "The symbolism is striking: an historic old Southern track being jilted in favor of a gleaming new facility in California" (TENNESSEAN, 5/18).