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Bruton Smith: On TV blackouts, buying Dover, a Cup date for Kentucky, and wanting more leadership from NASCAR

By Mike Mulhern

   This season marks the 50th anniversary of the Charlotte 600, first known as the World 600 and since 1985 called the Coke 600, and promoter Bruton Smith, worried about ticket sales, like most sports promoters at the moment, says if the National Football League's local TV blackout rule works, NASCAR would do well to consider adopting a blackout rule too.
   Smith says that NASCAR's TV partners do such a good job that he worries it might be "too good," and that some fans might simply stay home and watch, rather than attend in person.
   The NFL, if a home game isn't sold out 72 hours before start, allows for a TV blackout generally within 75 miles of the game. Sometimes, to get around the blackout, networks will buy up the unsold tickets.
   Smith wouldn't say how far he might want such a NASCAR blackout to extend.
   A TV blackout?
   "Yes," Smith said. "I have not talked with NASCAR about that. But that's exactly what should happen.
   "It would work just like it does in the NFL. And I think it would be beneficial to the speedways.
   "We used to do that, remember."
   And Smith said he didn't think TV networks would mind much, "because it would be a big problem. Because it would only be a small part of the overall."
   Some of Smith's tracks are taking out seats, reshaping things, but Smith insists those moves aren't of ticket sales issues but rather to increase total income.
   And Smith says he's still optimistic about a quick turnaround to the nation's economy.
   "I made a prediction three months ago that this economy would turn around between March 15th and March 30th, and I'm sticking with that," Smith said.
   "This month, so far, I've got some pretty good figures from my shops in the automobile industry – In California we've sold 950-some used cars for the month, and that's an increase over any month last year."

     Smith, frequently peppered with questions about what his next major acquisition might be, Tuesday raised hints that Dover International Speedway might have his eye.  That track has two Sprint Cup dates.
    Smith said he has talked with the man who would be able to make the decision to sell or not, apparently referring to Henry B. Tippie, an Austin, Texas, cattle rancher, and the chairman of the board of Dover Motorsports Inc.
   "I've talked to him many times, and, yes, he wants to sell," Smith said. "It's a matter of money. How much.
   "If Dover is going to be sold, he's the man who will decide."
   However could Smith, after buying New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Kentucky Motor Speedway, find enough money? "Unless you know something I don't," Smith said confidently. "But it depends on which bank you write the check on – just hope that bank isn't out of money."
   Smith laughed.

   Smith says NASCAR executives need to do more to keep the sport moving ahead. "Leaving Brian (France, NASCAR CEO) out of the equation, I don't see enough leadership coming out of NASCAR today to do the things we need to get done.
   "But I think it will get better."

    Smith says he's still got plans for a Sprint Cup date at his new Kentucky Motor Speedway in 2010, figuring the appeals court will rule against some of the men he's buying that track from, who have sued NASCAR over not giving them a Cup date already themselves. NASCAR executives have made it clear they will not be giving Kentucky a Cup date until that suit is dropped.
   "I don't think those guys are going to win the appeal," Smith says.
   Jerry Carroll, the biggest name figure in the Kentucky track story, isn't part of the problem, Smith insists. "It's those other three who haven't thrown in the towel," Smith says.
   Those owners say that Smith got too good a deal in buying that track, because the $152 million facility has had to be sold for far below that, because it lacks a Cup date.
    Smith has bought the track for $78.3 million, which includes assuming $63.3 million in debt. So the cash outlay so far would be only $7.5 million, plus another $7.5 million, depending on some other conditions. Some papers filed in the case showed that the France family's International Speedway Corp. was earlier offered the track by Carroll and his partners for $186 million, an offer the ISC turned down.
   The Kentucky situation is setting well with Smith, who hosted a panel seminar for the NASCAR media here with general managers from seven of his eight tracks' represented….the missing one, Kentucky.
   But Smith made clear he still had Cup plans for that 1.5-mile oval just south of Cincinnati. "We certainly didn't buy that speedway without the plan for having a Cup date there," Smith said.
   "However the former owners had a lawsuit. They lost that suit, but it was appealed. If they had dropped that appear, we would have a Cup race up there this year.
   "That lawsuit has thrown a wrench in the plans."

First of all, welcome back to

First of all, welcome back to the Net, Mike.

Bruton Smith is a bully, and if he's talking about poaching up Dover, then he obviously failed to intimidate the Mattiolis, and more power to the Mattiolis for apparantly staring down Bruton, because Pocono is still better than most of Bruton's other speedways.

Kentucky is a good speedway and if you put a gun to my head I'd have to say it does warrant at least one Winston Cup date - yes I'm still old school enough to call it Winston Cup - but never at some other track's expense.

BS is also wrong about TV blackouts - because he can pad his speedways in attendance with corporate bulk-buys (and even with that he still can't sell out his tracks anymore) doesn't give him the right to demand other tracks have to give up their TV coverage.

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