NASCAR & Auto Racing

Concord orders halt to work on drag strip at Lowe's Motor Speedway

While pledging loyalty to auto racing, Concord City Council members voted unanimously Monday to halt construction on a drag strip that's being built at the Lowe's Motor Speedway complex.

Concord bills itself and the surrounding area as the cradle of the motorsports industry. Mayor Scott Padgett noted Monday night that he has a NASCAR custom license place on his car.

But residents who can already see construction for the drag strip from their backyards organized opposition during the past week, telling council members they were worried about noise.

The Monday night session was a special meeting called by city officials who said they weren't getting data from Smith's company, Speedway Motorsports, to show how loud noise from the drag strip would be. Speedway Motorsports representatives didn't provide noise data at the meeting, however.

"The burden is on them," Padgett said.

He said council members could reverse the decision if the company provides them with more noise information.

"This is a way we can protect our citizens and put us in charge of the decision-making," Padgett said.

Speedway owner Bruton Smith in August announced plans to build the drag strip, saying then that racing would begin next spring.

Smith started grading his land about a week ago, but has not has not applied for required permits to build a drag strip. The council's vote Monday changed the zoning on Smith's property to bar drag strips.

Last week, Smith said city officials weren't doing enough to back motorsports and threatened legal action if the council intervened in his project.

On Monday night, though, Lauri Wilks, a spokeswoman for Lowe's Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports, struck a conciliatory tone with council members and residents.

She said she hopes the company will get a chance to change minds.

"We're really serious about addressing the concerns of the neighborhood and the council," Wilks said.

Several residents and workers with ties to drag-racing teams and to motorsports spoke at the meeting, saying a drag strip would bring high-paying jobs and millions of dollars in needed tax revenues to Concord.

But the drag-strip supporters were easily outnumbered by residents of a subdivision about a mile away from the proposed strip. Those residents said they worried their property values would drop and that noise from drag-racing cars would disturb their children's sleep.

"I like (drag strips), but I like them way out in a field somewhere," said George Sprague, a resident who lives about two miles north of the speedway. "They're very exciting, but they're very loud," he said.