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Dover owners closing down St. Louis' Gateway track

 Brad Keselowski (here up against the wall, after that boot from Carl Edwards in July) made Gateway quite exciting this season (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern



   NASCAR took another blow Wednesday when Dover Motorsports Inc (NYSE: DVD), which owns the Sprint Cup tour's major Philadelphia-Washington-Baltimore stop in Delaware, announced it was shutting the doors at its St. Louis track, Gateway International Raceway.

   Dover had already announced it wouldn't be running any NASCAR touring events in 2011; the track has hosted the Nationwide series, but not the Cup series.
   Denis McGlynn, the president and CEO of Dover Motorsports, said "Gateway is a tremendous facility in a great racing community, but we are simply unable to operate it with an acceptable return. 
   "We truly appreciate the many years of dedication shown by our Gateway employees and their efforts to make Gateway such a great destination for all those passionate about our sport – from racing fans and drivers to sponsors, team owners and sanctioning bodies."
   The Dover Motorsports company, though publicly traded, is majority-owned by Texas' Henry Tippie. Dover is one of the few remaining independently owned stock car racing tracks; the two giant track owners, Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports and the France family's International Speedway Corp., tried to buy the Dover operation from Tippie three years ago at some $6 a share, but Tippie then declined. DVD is currently trading at $1.75 a share.
   Last month the Dover track said it wanted to merge again with the Dover gaming facility, which is right outside the track. What that might mean is still unclear, since by opening the door to such a Wall Street deal it would appear that the Dover track has in effect opened the door to bidding for control of its stock. The Dover track itself, by some estimates, would be valued at about $65 million, with a significant part of its value likely being in the two Sprint Cup dates it has. NASCAR executives have limited the market for Cup weekends, and thereby setting a value on a Cup date.
   While the Dover track is in one of the U.S.' major markets, there would be the question of what Smith and the Frances might actually do with the track and its two Cup dates if they were to obtain majority ownership. Smith has talked of a wanting a second Cup date at his Las Vegas track; the Frances just cut back their Los Angeles track to a single Cup date, though with likely an option to add a date again there eventually.


   Despite a key location, the Gateway track never drew well (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




Sad to see. The track never

Sad to see. The track never got a chance to ramp up for a Cup date. NASCAR wants to see potential Cup tracks sell out Nationwide races before they'll consider giving a track a Cup date, but who wants to watch what that series has become? Not only are we losing Gateway, we could be losing Dover. Dover is one of the 5-6 tracks that I would pay to see a Cup race at and one of the few worth tuning in to watch on TV. Bruton to the rescue again? Let's hope so. Then he'll almost have enough tracks to start his own show if NASCAR gets completely out of line.
It also appears that the Nashville Fairgrounds track is gone for good, too. I hope somebody will have the guts and funds to build a new track styled like that. It produced some great short track racing from the Cup level to late models, and I hate to see it go.


Some myths need to be

Some myths need to be punctured here -

1 - The Gateway track had fourteen seasons to "ramp up" for Winston Cup; the reality is the demographic is not a strong racing demographic. That was proven by the track's mediocre draw.

2 - I'm not sold that Dover is going to be sold. This proposed merger looks to make the track more solid and less vulnerable to being poached.

3 - "If NASCAR gets completely out of line?" It's Bruton who's been out of line for nearly two decades.

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