Voices From The Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Friday April 6, 2007
In July of 2005, Kentucky Speedway filed suit against NASCAR and ISC on anti-trust grounds. Having dreamt for years that one day the track would gain its own Nextel Cup date, the owners of the facility found themselves left with no choice but to sue when they discovered NASCAR had no intentions of giving them the series they were looking for. In part, the suit alleges that "NASCAR and ISC illegally conspire to keep Nextel Cup dates away from non-ISC tracks."
Longtime readers of this column should know that I have said this all along. However, there were a few out there that did not share my views. As one reader wrote after I had written a article about the subject, Voices From the Heartland: Finally, NASCAR being sued for violating 12-4-A, "Ever hear of the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell? Don't take my word for it. According to the lawyer that represented Texas Motor Speedway in their failed suit over alleged anti-trust violations, they have less of a chance than that snowball (of getting what they want)."
After the initial filing in 2005, not much else was heard about the suit until June of 2006. That's when a group calling themselves "UNITE HERE" suddenly started showing up at races asking fans to sign a petition to "save stock car racing as we know it". All in all, saving stock car racing sounded like a good thing to do, but having been "once bitten, twice shy,” I decided to investigate this group a little before jumping on their bandwagon. (Another Group Out to Dupe the NASCAR Fan)
Well, turns out UNITE HERE was nothing more than a labor union that wanted NASCAR to end its relationship with the Cintas Corporation because the Founder and CEO of Cintas was Richard Farmer, who just happens to be a part owner of Kentucky Speedway. This union had been attempting to unionize Cintas and were telling the fans that the anti-trust lawsuit that Kentucky Speedway had filed would ruin racing as we know it. UNITE HERE efforts went largely ignored, however and they, like NAMRF (National Association of Minority Race Fans) before them, quietly faded from the news after only about three weeks. (I seem to have that effect on people, don’t I!?)
Now, it is no secret that NASCAR, ISC and all the little Frances that have even yet to be born, desperately want to build new race tracks in New York City and somewhere in the state of Washington. They have spent years and millions of dollars trying to accomplish this feat in NYC, but FINALLY had to give it up in November of last year after their Staten Island project fell completely on its face.
Since then, (and long before actually) they have turned all their attention to the state of Washington, even though they were not thoroughly welcomed. While NASCAR was looking to warm the public, the public became warm to the political maneuvering the sport was doing in order for them to simply achieve financial gain.
"We might as well dispense with calling these things ‘public-private partnerships’ because they really aren't,” said Washington State Treasurer Mike Murphy during a recent interview. "The private side gets rich. The public side gets screwed."
Despite the pessimism by Washington’s government brass, anyone other than the "casual fan" (yes, that fan so obsessively sought by Brian France) should know that NASCAR, ESPECIALLY NASCAR, does not like to lose. It does not matter what the morals or ethics of a situation may be; if it will add to the profits of the France family, they are more tenacious than a pitbull with a bad case of fleas and lockjaw. Point being, they simply do not give up; no one expected a little opposition by the legislature to be the be-all, end-all in NASCAR building a track in the state.
So, why then was it announced suddenly on April 3rd that ISC and NASCAR have abandoned their current efforts to do just that? Those efforts, in case you have been in line to use the bathroom during the latest phantom debris caution, called for ISC to pay $180 million towards a $368 million speedway facility, with the residents of Washington picking up the rest of the tab. The Washington State Legislature was mulling it over; no final decision had been made on the issue.
"Additional changes to the legislation were unacceptable and would have had a significant negative impact on our financial model for the Speedway," said Grant Lynch, president of Great Western Sports, a subsidiary of ISC. "Therefore, we have decided to no longer pursue the Speedway development."
"We're not going to discuss the specific changes that were proposed to us that made us come to this decision," said ISC spokesman Lenny Santiago. "As a public company, we need to be accountable to our shareholders."
Shareholders is the keyword here, and Kentucky Speedway lawyers want to know just exactly who is sharing when it comes to the Frances, NASCAR and ISC.
Is it any coincidence that on Friday, March 30th, during a conference call between lawyers for Kentucky Speedway, NASCAR, ISC, and a U.S. District Judge, that the question of NASCAR/ISC ownership came up?
"Brian France, the current chairman and CEO of NASCAR, holds no stock in NASCAR but does hold stock in ISC,” the judge wrote in a memo. "Jim France (Bill Jr's brother), CEO and board member of ISC, is also vice chairman and one of two current owners of NASCAR. Lesa France Kennedy, president and board member of ISC, is also a vice president and board member of NASCAR and one of its two current owners."
“Plaintiff [Kentucky Speedway] argues that if Jim France and Lesa Kennedy are either the majority or sole owners of NASCAR, as plaintiff suspects, then their roles as CEO and president of ISC provides them with a motive to aid NASCAR’s alleged monopoly.”
“Similarly, plaintiff asserts that if Brian France, chairman and CEO of NASCAR, does not hold stock in NASCAR but only in ISC, he may be motivated to aid ISC in its alleged attempt to monopolize the hosting market.”
Now, I ask you the logical question off those remarks: if NASCAR and ISC are not monopolizing the awarding of dates, as Kentucky Speedway claims, how could they have guaranteed themselves a Cup date had the two new tracks been built? Does their sudden abandonment of their Washington plans have any thing to with the sudden interest of who really owns what at NASCAR and ISC?
Only time will tell, but you know how it is with NASCARâ€¦.where there's smoke, there's fire retardant foam! Seems the foam under the France's seats may be getting a little warm as of late.
Stay off the wall,
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