NASCAR & Auto Racing

Lowe's Motor Speedway owner wants split from city

CONCORD -- Lowe's Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith said he wants a divorce from Concord.

Smith said today his lawyers are looking into how he can get "un-annexed" from the city after Concord City Council members voted Monday to stop him from building a $60 million drag strip at his motorsports complex in the city.

Smith said if he has to, he will spend the $350 million it would take to build a new oval track and drag strip outside of Concord.

"We are trying to run a business here and we are trying to grow that business," Smith said. "Concord has said, `We are not going to allow that to happen.' "

One of the residents who criticized the drag strip said she was dumbfounded by Smith's move.

"I don't think they get it," said Jamie Richardson in an e-mail to the Observer. She lives less than a mile from the site of the drag strip. "Residents of this neighborhood do not oppose a drag strip per se. We seek to learn what can/will be done to protect our neighborhood from the inevitable noise."

In August, Smith announced plans to build the drag strip, saying at the time that racing would begin next spring.

Smith started grading his land about a week ago, but has not applied for 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.

City council members voted unanimously Monday night to halt construction on the drag strip amid complaints from residents who said the drag strip could create disruptive noise in their neighborhood.

Council members said they had not gotten data from Smith's company, Speedway Motorsports, to show how loud noise from the drag strip would be.

"The burden is on them," Concord Mayor Scott Padgett said at the meeting.

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.

Concord bills itself and the surrounding area as the cradle of the motorsports industry. In addition to the speedway and adjacent dirt track Smith owns, the area is home to numerous NASCAR teams and related businesses. Padgett noted Monday night that he has a NASCAR custom license plate 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.