By Don Ward
SPARTA, KY. (July 9, 2005) Frustrated and unable to get a Nextel Cup race date from NASCAR after five years of operation, owners of the Kentucky Speedway LLC on July 13 filed suit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation (ISC) alleging that these defendants have violated federal antitrust laws in that they have illegally restricted the award of NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races and have illegally awarded NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races to the International Speedway Corporation.
Photo by Don Ward
A race fan expresses his opinion on
a Nextel Cup race for Sparta during
the Busch Series weekend.
They consider the move a last resort after having done everything, they believe, to prove the 1.5-miles superspeedway is worthy of NASCAR's elite drivers. The move was motivated by previous failed efforts to land a spot on the annual Nextel Cup race calendar, which is announced each around mid-August.
The track currently holds NASCAR Busch and Truck Series events, along with NASCAR's smaller regional touring races. The track has garnered rave reviews from drivers, owners and fans from many corners. But the owners have always said they would not be completely successful until they land the big one a Nextel Cup event.
"Our goals have not changed; we have always been focused on a Nextel Cup race for Sparta, and we have not wavered from that goal," Mark Cassis, vice president and general manager, said in June.
At that time, Carroll named several older facilities that were being studied for possible buyout by his ownership team in an effort "to make something happen." Those tracks included Martinsville, W.Va., Loudon, N.H., Dover, Del., and Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. As of late June, Carroll said no purchase had been made. Even by purchasing another track with two races, there would be no guarantee that NASCAR would approve moving a race to Kentucky.
"They own the series; they can do whatever they want," Carroll said then.
In the lawsuit, Kentucky Speedway LLC alleges antitrust violations relating to various restraints of trade involving the NASCAR Busch Series races and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races. The lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky at Covington, Ky.
Attorneys representing Kentucky Speedway LLC include Cincinnati attorney Stanley Chesley of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley and Houston attorney Steve Susman of Susman Godfrey.
We have alleged that NASCAR and ISC have violated the federal antitrust laws, said Stan Chesley. In my opinion, the facts clearly support a conclusion that NASCAR and ISC have colluded to exclude competition in order to financially benefit themselves. By doing so, they have harmed not only Kentucky Speedway but also all stock car racing fans nationwide. Stock car racing is the most popular spectator sport in the United States and we intend to do our best to see that fair play and fair racing is re-established.
NASCAR and ISCs activities have harmed race fans in Ohio and Kentucky, stated Steve Susman. NASCARs treatment of Kentucky Speedway makes the most egregious tactics of drivers fighting for position on the track look like a Sunday afternoon drive in the country.
The suit follows a similar lawsuit that was filed against NASCAR in 2002 when Texas Motor Speedway stockholders filed an antitrust suit because they alleged that NASCAR failed on its promise of awarding a second race to the new track. That suit never went to court, however, because speedway owner Bruton Smith bought the North Carolina Speedway from ISC for $100 million and moved its Cup race to Texas.
The Kentucky Speedway was built in 1999 for $152 million in the hills of Gallatin County with no promises from NASCAR about a Nextel Cup date. The owners thought that if they proved themselves worthy through successful marketing of smaller race events that NASCAR would take notice and give them a Nextel Cup race. After what they believe has been a successful five years, with every race sponsored so far, five consecutive sellout crowds for Busch Series races, and with great potential from a huge Cincinnati market, they believe their time has come.
Instead, NASCAR officials in recent months have indicated they are waiting to create new Nextel Cup race dates for ISC-owned tracks to be built in New York and Seattle. That news has not sit well with the Kentucky Speedway's owners.
"When you have Nextel Cup races going on at 40- to 50-year-old venues, and you have this wonderful venue sitting here unused, it doesn't make sense," Cassis said. "It's getting to the point where it's inexcusable."
Besides Carroll, Kentucky Speedway owners include Chris Sullivan (of Outback Steakhouse), Dick Farmer (chairman of Cintas Corp.), Dick Duchossis (majority owner of Churchill Downs) and John Lindahl (Nashville-based owner of State Industries).
Supplemented by Kentucky Speedway reports.