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Bruton Smith looking for headlines -- good seats are still available for next week's All-Star race


Bruton Smith (C), second most powerful man in NASCAR, flanked by Bobby Allison (L) and son Marcus Smith (R) (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   So why has Bruton Smith been raising heck the last few days -- complaining that NASCAR's rules on race track fencing – like that at Talladega Superspeedway, where last week Carl Edwards nearly got into the grandstands – need to be standardized, and then insisting he was still pushing hard for a Sprint Cup date in 2010 at his new Kentucky Speedway?
    Probably to try to pump up ticket sales for next week's annual All-star race at Charlotte's Lowe's Motor Speedway and the following weekend's Coke 600 at his hometown track.
   And now Smith's Speedway Motorsports empire (NYSE: TRK) is reporting first quarter earnings….and the initial analysis of the report is mixed.
   -- Speedway Motorsports is reporting total revenues for the first three months of the year at $133.6 million, with income of 47 cent a share. That's down considerably from last year's first quarter, in which the company earned 71 cents a share, on revenues of $155.2 million.
   -- The company reaffirmed its earnings guidance for the year, of earning $1.70 to $1.90 per share.
   -- However the company reports a 34 percent drop in profit, a 14 percent drop in net sales, and a 24 percent drop in "event-related revenue."
   The quarterly report says the company "continues to utilize innovative promotional campaigns to help foster fan support and mitigate near-term ticket sales weakness."
    The drop was attributed to the slumping U.S. economy, which has hurt souvenir sales in particular. Speedway Motorsports and the France family's International Speedway Corp. have taken over most of the sport's souvenir sales, and that purchase has had major problems.
   The company also pointed to its closing purchase of Kentucky Speedway as a significant expense.
   Marcus Smith, Bruton's Smith's son and the chief operating officer for Speedway Motorsports: "While our first quarter results reflect that challenging economic conditions continue, we remain confident that SMI’s business model continues to provide us with greater resilience than most other industries.
   "SMI's long-term outlook remains strong.
    "We believe our current initiatives for enhancing revenues and cost containment are well-positioning SMI for long-term growth when economic conditions inevitably improve.
    "It is worth repeating that many of our NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck event sponsorships are already sold for 2009 and later years. These corporate marketing arrangements, along with NASCAR broadcasting and other multi-year committed uses of our speedway facilities, provide SMI with significant contracted revenue and cash flow streams for 2009 and beyond."
    One of the company's biggest events, the annual All-Star race and Coke 600, are coming up later this month.
    Bruton Smith reiterated his big plans for Kentucky Speedway, even though NASCAR executives have said repeatedly they have no intention of granting that track a Cup date unless a lawsuit against the sanctioning body is dropped.
   And recent legal action in that case makes it unlikely there could be any court resolution of the lawsuit until sometime in June.
   NASCAR is expected to move quickly to lock in as many 2010 Cup dates as it can over the next six weeks.
   Nevertheless Bruton Smith is pumping up word about Kentucky, which will run an ARCA event this weekend, and a Nationwide race June 13th.
   Smith said he "plans to make many fan-friendly facility improvements, in multiple phases, including creating new infield camping areas, expanded parking, improved access roads, along with new concession, camping, restroom and other fan amenities" at Kentucky Speedway, which sits about 30 miles south of Cincinnati.
   "We continue working with Kentucky state lawmakers on possible tax incentives to facilitate expansion and improvement, and intend to realign a Sprint Cup Series event to our Kentucky Speedway at the earliest opportunity.
    "We look forward to creating a first-class facility and conducting exciting racing for this very desirable market area."

BS Can't Help Himself

His racetracks are overrated, he can't sell them out anymore, so he gets the Race-Stream Media to pay attention to him by bloviating, yelling, and pulling PR stunts like reinforcing New Hampshire's fencing even though there was no need for it. He's like Brett Favre - he can't help himself.

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