Bruton Smith wants to spend $100M on track improvements
CONCORD, NC (WBTV) - NASCAR mogul Bruton Smith is no stranger to controversy and catching people off guard. He did just that on Thursday when he told North Carolina's governor "we want to spend $100 million" to improve his Concord-based race track.
Governor Pat McCrory was at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday to proclaim May as "Motorsports Month" in North Carolina, ahead of the All Star Race and Coca Cola 600 later this month.
"Racing and motorsports have helped define our state and drive our economy," said Governor McCrory. "We are proud of the rich history of motorsports in North Carolina and that so many teams, tracks and events call our state home. Today we celebrate that legacy, as well as the industry's bright future."
The governor was joined by NASCAR Hall of Fame member Richard Petty, Bruton and Marcus Smith, and NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose to sign the proclamation.
That's when Smith told the governor he'd be coming for some money.
"While you're here, I've got to find some time to talk to you," Bruton said to McCrory. "We want to spend about $100 million here to improve our situation and I certainly would like to have you to say 'you know well that's a good thing'."
"I'm gonna fight for you," McCrory responded while laughing. He then pointed to driver Marcos Ambrose . "And I'm bringing my man to help it."
"Now that I've got you here, we only wanna spend a hundred, okay? Downtown Charlotte spending $88 million on something that was built a few years ago. Well, I built this place in 1960. That was a while back."
That $88 million is coming from local taxpayers without state money in exchange for a six-year commitment by the Carolina Panthers franchise to stay in Charlotte.
That's when Smith asked if McCrory wanted him to come see him to talk or if he wanted to talk "right here in front of God and everybody else."
McCrory took the microphone from Smith saying he'd just come from a prayer breakfast, so "why don't we do it later."
An official from McCrory's office contacted WBTV after the story was published saying "there won't be money for any stadiums in the governor's budget."
Smith is no stranger to asking elected officials for money to help improve the Concord-based track.
In fact, he's been involved in a seven-year legal battle with Concord and Cabarrus County leaders.
At issue is $80 million in upgrades and incentives promised to Smith in October 2007 to persuade him not to move the track from Concord. Smith had threatened to move CMS when city leaders balked about his development of zMax Dragway.
After weeks of tense negotiation, leaders came up with an $80 million incentive plan that involved road improvements and upgrades to services in and near the speedway complex.
No formal agreement with a timeline for payment was established.
Smith says he believed $60 million would be paid would be reimbursed within three years and the remaining $20 million within six years.
City and county leaders said that the there was no such timetable and that the money could be paid back over a period of up to 40 years.
Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc. filed a lawsuit in September 2009 in an effort to get the money. The initial suit was dropped nearly a year later.
It was filed as a notice of dismissal without prejudice, meaning it could be re filed within twelve months, which it was in mid-2011. A judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2012.
Efforts were made in 2013 to resurrect the lawsuit but in January 2014 an appeals court put the brakes on the effort saying Smith and Cabarrus County did not have a formal contract.
Speedway officials say CMS will generate $230 million in economic impact and support 4,200 jobs during May.
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