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Bruton's Take: He's ready to buy another track. But you'll have to guess which one....

  Bruton Smith and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear  (Photo: Kentucky Speedway)

   By Mike Mulhern


   SPARTA, Ky.
   Bruton Smith was in rare form here Friday afternoon, firing off one-liners and quips in machine-gun fashion, as if to warm up the Kentucky-Ohio-Indiana media audience for Saturday's historic Kentucky 400 at Smith's newest acquisition, Kentucky Speedway.
   Smith, shepherded around here by the man who built this place, Jerry Carroll, was again king for a day….and teased the media crowd when he said he hoped to have another 'inaugural race' on the Sprint Cup tour soon.

   "I wish we had more 'inaugural' races….and I'd like to have another one soon after this one."
    Teasing? Apparently not.
   "I'm very serious," he replied. "I'd love to."
   So that would mean Smith's buying a track that isn't currently on the tour? "Not necessarily…..maybe we could change it so much it would look like a new facility."
   'Soon after this one?'
    Well, Indianapolis is up on the calendar at the end of the month, and Pocono is the following week…..
    Pocono has long been a topic of speculation, but each time its future is questioned, Dr. Joe Mattiolli, the owner, firmly shoots it down.
    Dover too, with Henry Tippie, the majority owner, and a Texas cattleman, the man who holds the ultimate cards there.
    Smith has the past few years declined to talk on the record about Pocono.
    But he does talk about Dover's Tippie: "He's a nice man. He owns 3500 mother cows."
    Pocono needs repaving, and its crowds have been down lately. Dover had an off-crowd too in May.
    Smith has a reputation for wheeling-and-dealing to fill seats. If he ran Dover, could he sell it out? "If we kept it, we would," Smith zinged in reply.
    In all this one-ups-manship, Smith never likes to lose.

    So it was a wet 'Welcome to Kentucky' afternoon by Smith, who likes to call himself "NASCAR's biggest customer," because he runs eight of the stock car tour's 23 Cup tour tracks (the France family's ISC runs 12).
    Smith, with a coterie of highly successful track bosses, has been generally regarded as more successful in his business ventures than his rival promoters, and his tracks are generally in bigger markets.
    And he was quick to point out that the Kentucky 400 will be a sellout (107,000 seats), the first NASCAR sellout of the season.
   "The Georgia department of tourism did a survey on how much a (Cup) weekend was worth to the state, and they said it was $400 million," Smith says.
"Now that's a lot of money. And if it was that much down there, it must be that much up here too."
    The biggest sports event in this state has traditionally been the Kentucky Derby. But Smith was quick to deal with that legendary horse race: "We will outdraw that horsey event. And we will have a bigger impact." 

    Among the issues offered up:

    -- Smith indicated he planned to install lights at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, for a night race of some sort: "We will be working diligently on that…."

   -- Smith, when asked about worries that Saturday race traffic here may be a problem, conceded "It will be a problem.
   "We've had many, many classes on traffic…..and we hope to get everybody home by Tuesday.
   "This Interstate-71….you don't ever want to be on it. This is the worst section of interstate highway in America. The governor and I have talked about that. So we're working on getting something done about Interstate-71.
   "Don't go on Interstate-71. You're not going to win.
   "Pick a number, any number, and use that road."

    -- The cooler controversy here? Fans have been up in arms over not being allowed to bring in coolers.
    Smith curtly dismissed that: "That's a state law. Like at Las Vegas.
   "I'm not interested in changing anything like that. Highways, yes, but not that."

  -- Smith said he's still working with officials about building an airport next to this track.  "The FAA has studied it and knows they need an airport here," Smith says.
  -- Smith pooh-poohed complaints by drivers that this track needed more Safer barrier softwalls. Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are among the drivers complaining.
   "I have not talked to Jeff and Tony…but tell them just to drive where Kyle Busch goes," Smith cracked, referring to Thursday night's Truck winner here. "If they will do that, they won't have to worry about any 'padding.'"
   (But Busch himself ripped the track too for not putting up enough softwalls: "I don't know whose dumb idea that was to put the (infield) wall out in turns one and two -- six feet away from the track -- but that's not right.  That was wrong.")

   -- Smith insisted he wasn't fully committed to repaving this track, despite the numerous bumps and the general degradation of the track itself over the past 10 years since it opened.
   However that 'may not repave' hint might have been another chip on the table with NASCAR over other things Smith might want in return from the sanctioning body. (Smith has been expected to repave this track before next summer's 400 and to redesign it to more resemble his Texas Motor Speedway.)
   But Smith says he's got big plans for this place: "We keep reviewing stuff, and we will keep doing stuff here till we get it right.
   "We'll do enough things that you'll like some of them."
   Revamping the bizarre NASCAR garage for one: "My goal is to tear this garage area down…and hauled all the parts and pieces over to Darrell Waltrip's. I need to apologize for this garage area."
   But repaving the track? "Oh that's just talk. Some want it, some don't.
    "I've reviewed that with NASCAR, and they don't have anything to say, either way.
   "I don't think we'll do that (for) next year; maybe the year after that."

   -- And Smith even crowed about Las Vegas Motor Speedway's recent Electric Daisy Carnival, three nights (8 pm to 8 am) of DJ music on huge infield stages, certainly a different use of a race track: "We drew 240,000 people over three days. It was awesome, awesome, and yes we're going to do it again….."

   However it was Smith's hint that another track deal might be in the works that was most intriguing.  
   Is Smith, the Charlotte businessman who has been in stock car racing since Bill France Sr.'s days in the early 1950s, really planning to buy another speedway?
   That's what he broadly hinted, during an hour-long session with the media Friday afternoon.
    "At another speedway we may eventually own," Smith said, with a straight-face, to laughter.
    "It's just a matter of getting something done.
    "A couple of you even wrote I was buying Indianapolis, before I even knew I was," Smith added, as something of a joke.
   Would Smith like to buy Indianapolis?
   "Is it for sale?"
   "If you've got enough money."
   And just how much money might that be…..
   Is this all just a tease?
   Maybe, maybe not: "Sometimes things happen when we least expect it."
   And Smith is well-known for keeping very close tabs on the financials of his corporate rivals and any potential acquisitions, to be ready to pounce when the timing is just right.

   "You know NASCAR has never given me a (Cup) date," Smith said, repeating one of his long-standing mantras. "Never.
   "Even those first races at Charlotte (1960) – you know where they came from: that old dirt track I used to run.
   "I'd say they owe me several dates.
   "So we will have to be very creative if we have another (Cup) date in Vegas."
    Very creative….
    Might it be possible to take a Cup date and divide it in half – take, say, a 500-mile race and instead of running all 500 miles at one track, run two 250-mile races at two tracks, each with half the regular field? The late sports exec T. Wayne Robertson once proposed something like that, in his 'American League/National League' game plan.
     Indianapolis is an intriguing piece in the NASCAR puzzle, with crowds down significantly at the 257,000-seat track. NASCAR just announced adding a Grand-Am sports car race Indy-Brickyard weekend in 2012 and adding a Saturday Nationwide race at IMS too.
    A tit-for-tat rivalry between Smith and the Daytona-based company has gone on for decades of course….most recently perhaps with the Wednesday announcement at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the day before this place opened for a full weekend of racing – that seemed to step on some of this track's hoped-for PR.
   (That, remember, is an old Smith tactic, to host a press conference or media event to upstage a rival track.)
   There has been speculation for several years now that IMS might be a target of Smith and/or the Frances, since the abrupt dismissal of Tony George as Indy boss.
    "I just spent 2-1/2 hours with Tony a couple weeks ago….and he tells me he is basically not involved," Smith says. "But I've also talked with Mary (Hulman, the Indy matriarch). We're all friends…and I hope we're still friends 20 years from now."
    What all that might mean is unclear. But just imagine what showman/promoter Bruton Smith could do with the Indianapolis 500, as well as the Brickyard 400. Indeed, Bruton Smith might be just what Indianapolis needs, to relight that fire.
    Still, pinning Smith down on what he might be considering, or planning, or negotiating, is never easy. It typically involves reading between the lines…..

   -- Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
   -- Pocono Raceway?
   -- Dover International Speedway?
   -- Nashville?
   -- California Speedway?
   -- Chicagoland?
   -- anything in New Jersey?
   -- anything up in the New York City area?
   -- Denver?
   -- Montreal?
   -- Martinsville?
   -- California?
   -- Homestead?

   Smith was peppered with questions about all the possibilities, and he deflected most of them, offering only teasing answers.
   Is Smith really talking with people about buying another race track...or is he just talking?
   "I always look at opportunity….and you know the people I know – If opportunity knocks, I'm going to get up and answer the door," Smith said.


    Kentucky Speedway, Bruton Smith's latest acquisition, ready for its Sprint Cup tour debut (Photo: Kentucky Speedway)

There was some land turned

There was some land turned over to the local towns from the Base Realignment and Closure Act here in West Arkansas. Bruton could just build a New track here. i'd b more likely to go to every race there.

Bruton isn't talking - he's

Bruton isn't talking - he's bluffing. There aren't any tracks for sale and I sense more and more in the sport don't want to do business with him. He's made major changes to his racetracks and not one of his changes in the last 15 years has objectively been successful.

Gateway is up for sale, and

Gateway is up for sale, and Dover likely could be bought, too, for the right price. The owners of Dover closed Memphis, then closed Gateway. My guess is that they will sell Dover before they have to close it. Would love to see Bruton buy Gateway, make some improvements, and get a Cup date there. I hope both Cup dates remain in tact at Dover. It's a unique track and the racing there is good. NASCAR should look at going to a schedule where they only visit most tracks one time, as Jimmie Johnson has commented about. Attendance would be better at every venue.

"Mike Daly" -- How can you

"Mike Daly" -- How can you say, "He's made major changes to his racetracks and not one of his changes in the last 15 years has objectively been successful." He purchased Las Vegas, built two new grandstands and the race sells out almost every year. He also moved pit road closer to the grandstands and constructed the Neon Garage fan experience. How can you claim this is not successful?

Bruton Smith, the best Carny

Bruton Smith, the best Carny in NASCAR. I have been to Martinsville, North Wilkesboro(when it was open and still a cup track)Charlotte, Daytona and several other tracks and I must Say that Mr. Smith does do the best job at keeping the fans entertained plus he pays attention to their overall experience, as long as it makes him money. Hinting at buying another track is good PR for him and the 8 he already has, but before he does that maybe he needs to invest in his newest track, Kentucky. Imagine how much fun it would be to watch the race there if the track was repaved and the garage area was redone, that is if you can fix the traffic issues. Someone should have clued Mr. smith and the tracks management in to the fact that adding that many seats to the track is aq sure recipe for traffic jams if there is no investment in the roads around the track, it seems to me that fixing the parking and the roads would come first then add the seats, but what do I(the average fan) know about the business side of the sport?

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