NASCAR & Auto Racing

LMS' Smith has means to back talk

Bruton Smith could, and I don't doubt he would.

Smith threatened Tuesday to build a bigger and better version of Lowe's Motor Speedway elsewhere in the Charlotte area if he's not allowed to separate himself from the jurisdiction of Concord, the city which annexed the track several years ago.

Smith, the track's chairman, is steamed because the Concord city council voted Monday night to change zoning laws to specifically halt work on a $60 million drag strip Smith has planned for property near the 1.5-mile oval track that opened in 1960.

"I am dumbfounded by the whole thing," Smith said. "If it sounds like I feel like I am a victim in this, I do feel like the victim. I don't know why the mayor of Concord dislikes racing the way it appears that he does."

Concord Mayor Scott Padgett would argue his city has done a great deal to embrace the motorsports industry, and also would point out his constituents in the area have a right to express their fears that a drag strip would bring unreasonable noise and other disruption to their neighborhood.

The area around the speedway isn't the first place a battle over how much growth is too much has been fought, and it won't be the last. Growth unquestionably has a winning record in such fights, and one reason is growth is usually spurred by Smith and other rich people like him. That means Smith has enough money that at almost any time he can do just about what he wants.

There's no question if Smith decided he'd rather sink $350 million into building a new racing complex somewhere else than kowtow (in his mind) to the elected leaders of Concord, he has the money to make that happen.

Smith has gone down this road before.

In 2003, a commissioner in Sullivan County in Tennessee suggested a 10 percent "entertainment" tax to help raise money. The chief "entertainment" in the county is Bristol Motor Speedway, and in quick order Smith said if such a tax on tickets to his event got passed he would move both dates from Bristol to another track. The idea for the tax quickly died.

The smart thing here all around, of course, is to find a compromise. That's probably what will eventually happen.

But, if Smith's drag racing plans are effectively blocked at the current site, would he really build a new track elsewhere?

Would he, as he said Tuesday he might do, try to build an airport, too, figuring that since the residents don't want noise they'd like for him to take away the jets that land at the Concord airport that sits on the other side of their houses?

I know he could.

I think, pressed hard enough, he would, too.

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