Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday October 2, 2008
Imagine, if you will, that I am extremely rich. I have enough money to fund the bailout of the bank crisis several times over (not that I would bail them out — they deserve no sympathy for their own stupidity). Instead, I embark on a little lavish stupidity of my own; I build a race track!
Now, the track that I wind up building is the best that ever was. It’s not too long, not too short, and the banking has been precisely calculated to produce the best possible racing in the corners. It’s got a wide, safe pit road, and the surface is so finely tuned that even a Goodyear racing tire could be used without the fear of it coming apart within just a few laps. The oval seats about 200,000 people, and it’s guaranteed to sell out every single time the gates are open. Every driver, from all forms of motorsports, loves to race there, agreeing that no other track in America is its equal. Heck, the place is so exceptional, it is even rumored that on clear, still nights, ghosts of racers past can be seen driving wispy images of cars from other eras upon it. It is known, simply, as the “Mother of all race tracks.”
However, there is just one problem: I want a NASCAR date. Do you think I can get one? The answer, sadly, is “NO.” Why?
Because I am not a member of the France Family.
Instead, my petition for a race date has been awarded to the low-banked, 1.5-mile, lackluster track known as Kansas Speedway, which already had enough dates to begin with (one). The reason for the snub is because Kansas Speedway is owned and operated by that dreaded entity known as ISC. And ISC, while it is a publicly traded company, is controlled by the France family — with Lesa France Kennedy at the helm. Who are the people doling out the race dates for ISC? Well, that would be a private company, NASCAR, with Lesa’s brother, Brian France, as the CEO.
Works out pretty conveniently for them, don’t you think?
Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you decide to look at it) most of the stuff that I have written above is not true. I am not extremely rich and, in fact, don’t have enough money to bail myself out of the local hoosegow when the need occasionally arises. The part about ISC and NASCAR, however, is sadly a fact of life.
ISC and NASCAR have said all along that they do not create a monopoly when it comes to stock car racing. While technically, that may be true, the reality of it all is that they do. I ask you to consider (and answer truthfully to yourself) a few questions…
- How come other tracks that are not owned by ISC and are known to produce better racing and attendance have virtually no chance at being awarded a second (or first) date unless they actually buy an ISC track and take the date — or sue the two companies in court to get what they want?
- When ISC recently attempted to build two new tracks (failed attempts, I must happily add) at opposite ends of the country, how could they be assured they would be awarded a race date by NASCAR if it were not a monopoly?
- Why are extremely lame tracks, such as California, awarded two dates when everyone from the drivers to the fans are against it… and they can’t even sell out once a year?
- Why is Kansas Speedway getting another date when the racing there is, to say the least, a bit on the boring side?
The reason(s) here are plain and simple: The France family’s insatiable greed. They have, however, changed their tactics a bit in the face of increasing public scrutiny. Since their attempts to build new tracks with hefty doses of taxpayer dollars were defeated by, well, the taxpayers, the Frances have decided that if they can’t build race tracks, they will build casinos instead.
To be more accurate, the state of Kansas will own the casino — but it will be built and managed by another entity known as Kansas Entertainment, the marriage of Kansas Speedway (ISC) and another firm from Baltimore. With plans to construct the casino so that it overlooks one of the turns of the speedway, the company hopes it’ll be a beautiful addition completed within the next two years. Two also happens to equal the number of other entities vying for the privilege of building on this property — both of which were denied the opportunity.
Now, it is time for another question. What do you think was the deciding factor for the state of Kansas in awarding the casino to Kansas Entertainment?
Why, a second NASCAR race date, of course!
But how can Kansas Entertainment be so sure that NASCAR would award them a second date? Oh, that’s right! Brother Brian is the guy with the dates! No wonder ISC President Lesa was so confident. What is even more disgusting is the unadulterated glee that can be heard in Brother Brian’s voice… even when you are not there to hear it, but are reading it instead.
“With all the development and all the things going on, I think it’s great if there’s an opportunity to have a second date, and it looks like there will be,” said France.
When asked, as a member of the board, how he would vote on the matter of a second date…
“That’s a yes. That’s a very definite yes,” France said. “Obviously, that has to be petitioned by the speedway and ISC, and I assume they will do that at some point.”
Gee, ya really think so? ISC won’t have to sue NASCAR to get a second date for Kansas Speedway? Who’d have thunk it!?
Integrity of the sport and quality of racing for you, the fan, be damned. Pull up that chair and put your money down! You might be a winner. The France Family sure is.
Stay off the wall (and bet within your means),
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