Bruton Smith disputes that fall race move is a "done deal"

Published: May. 20, 2013 at 8:27 PM EDT|Updated: May. 21, 2013 at 5:02 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - NASCAR mogul Bruton Smith says there is a strong possibility that he will move the Bank of America 500 out of Charlotte, but a source told WBTV the move is "a done deal."

The Bank of America 500 is one of two annual races held at Smith's Charlotte Motor Speedway, along with May's Coca-Cola 600. The BoA 500 is held in October.

"I know you're not gonna cut this one out, but I've been having some strong conversations about one of these events being moved," Smith told WBTV's Paul Cameron in an exclusive interview on Monday. "And Las Vegas is a great place - it's the entertainment capital of the world - and they want another event."

In addition to owning the Charlotte Motor Speedway, the North Carolina native owns eight NASCAR tracks, including the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, hosting a total of eleven NASCAR Sprint Cup events.

The only Sprint Cup race that is currently held on the LVMS is the Kobalt Tools 400, which is held in early March.

On Tuesday, a source told WBTV that moving the fall race was a "done deal."

Smith later came out with a statement, calling the report "false," saying "No final decision has been made regarding any race date move, and I have not discussed this with NASCAR."

On Monday, Smith says he's flown out to Vegas several times to talk about moving a Sprint Cup race to his track there.

"They've made me offers to move one," Smith said.

"But you can't just move the race though, doesn't NASCAR have to move it?" Cameron asked.

"I know they would approve this," Smith responded. "And say the October race... Las Vegas.  You're gonna get a lot of phone calls about this - I'm gonna predict that."

Smith says the idea of moving to Vegas is not just a fishing expedition.

"I've made two trips out to Vegas and it costs money to go out there. I know all the powers out there," he told WBTV. "I have a lot of friends in Las Vegas - I have businesses out there, I have six businesses in Las Vegas."

Officials with the Cabarrus County Convention and Visitor's Bureau says moving the race would be a huge impact on the county.

"As a year-round visitor destination, the loss of an event, such as the Bank of America 500, would certainly have an impact on the county, city and state. Visitor spending has a direct impact on local and state sales taxes and provides tax relief for citizens of Cabarrus County," said Donna Carpenter, President and CEO of the CCCVB.

"Tourism dollars also plays a huge role in sustaining local businesses, such as hotels, restaurants, retail and gas stations - just to name a few. More than 3,790 jobs in Cabarrus County are directly attributable to travel and tourism," she continued. "The Convention and Visitor's Bureau certainly recognizes and appreciates the significant role the Speedway plays in continuing to make Cabarrus County a true racing destination and hopes Charlotte Motor Speedway will continue to be the host of this iconic race."

The Charlotte Motor Speedway is based in Concord, North Carolina. Smith has been involved in legal fights with Cabarrus County for years over money he is owed.

In fact, in 2009 Smith filed a lawsuit against the city and county seeking millions of dollars worth of infrastructure improvements near the Concord track. Smith claimed officials breached a contract by not following through on the infrastructure improvements. The improvements were part of the agreement reached to keep CMS in Concord after a bitter dispute flared up over the construction of the zMax Dragway.

"Some of your dear friends over at Cabarrus County are gonna say 'Is he? Is he? Is he?' Well... he may," Smith said. "Someone once said 'follow the money.' Well, if we do this, we will be following the money because, here again, there's a lot of money in Las Vegas. And if it gets to be strong enough, I imagine we might do something like that."

Smith says he initially kept the track there after a $80 million deal was presented to him, $60 million from Cabarrus County and another $20 million from the state.  He says the county still hasn't come through with their end of the deal.

"The City of Concord hopes that Charlotte Motor Speedway will continue to have events on the Sprint Cup schedule in October. Motorsports is an important part of the tourism economy in Cabarrus County, and brings over one million fans, vendors, and participants annually," the city of Concord released in a statement on Tuesday. "This benefits local businesses who serve race fans multiple times each year. Race fans from near and far have enjoyed the October race for years and mark it on their calendars."

"There are regional boosts in tourism during NASCAR events, and we are proud to host three major Sprint Cup events each year, welcoming the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to explore the area and motorsports-related events, attractions, and behind-the-scenes tours," the statement continued. "The City of Concord works with our partners to prepare for these events and to ensure the safety of these visitors, and will continue to do so in the future."

"I certainly hope that he will reconsider and let the races continue here in Cabarrus County," said Concord City Councilwoman Ella Mae Small.

"It's not a threat, per se," Smith told WBTV. "I think some people know about this, because they say sometimes there's no secrets."

When asked if he thought he could make more money at a race in Las Vegas versus having a race in Charlotte, Smith's answer was simple.

"Yes, yes, yes. Oh yes," he said. "Plus, we're discussing a ten-year contract for a lot of money every year."

According to Smith, money plays a huge factor in his possible move. He says a lot of the hotel/casinos in Vegas would love to have the race there, because race fans would fill up the hotels.

"You've got 150,000 rooms out there, more than any city in the world," he said. "And they want to fill up those hotels, and we do fill'em up.  That's good."

Smith played a major role in getting NASCAR to move the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards from New York to Las Vegas five years ago.

When it comes to a timeline on the potential move, Smith says this isn't a spur of the moment idea.

"Oh, now there you're pinning me down. I don't know how soon, that's just, it's something that's been in the stages now for at least a year."

So what's it going to take to move the race from Charlotte to Vegas?

"When the game is over, it'll be money, money, money. Money will move it," Smith said. "I'd say [the chances] are about 70/30."

On Tuesday, the day after Smith's interview, a source told WBTV "the chance isn't 70%, it's 100%."

When asked about the tradition of the fall race and the economic impact it has on Charlotte, Smith says the idea isn't about hurting Charlotte.

"We don't like to hurt Charlotte in any way, shape or form. We might have something smaller in its place, even though we move the Cup out there, there might be something else here."

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