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Bob Bahre
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Former New Hampshire Motor Speedway owner Bob Bahre dies at 93

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Bob Bahre, who built New Hampshire Motor Speedway and also formerly owned Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine, has died. He was 93.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway opened in 1990. NASCAR ran its first Cup race there in 1993. Rusty Wallace won that first race. Kevin Harvick and NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton each share the track record for most Cup wins with four. The Cup Series races there next on Aug. 2.

Bahre was known in the racing community for his generosity, often providing tow money to competitors who failed to make races.

Bahre purchased half of North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1995 and moved one of the track’s dates to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, giving it a second date. Bruton Smith purchased the other half of North Wilkesboro Speedway and moved that date to Texas Motor Speedway.

Bahre and his son Gary sold New Hampshire Motor Speedway to Speedway Motorsports in 2007 for $340 million.

Bruton Smith, Speedway Motorsports Executive Chairman, said: “Bob Bahre was a true pioneer for motorsports in New England. He wanted to grow our sport and build things that people will remember. He was a smart businessman and I have a lot of respect for that, but I have even more respect for the positive impact he had on people. I’ll pray for Sandy and Gary during this tough time, and I know they are proud of the legacy Bob leaves behind.”

Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO said of Bahre: “What I’ll remember most about Bob Bahre will be his character, understated yet charming. Every time I saw him he had on khakis and a white shirt. I always enjoyed our genuine conversations. He was very generous to people in the motorsports industry and to the New England communities where he did business. He went about things in a quiet, dignified manner and often times that simple approach is the most impactful. It’s truly an honor to have known Bob. He lived a meaningful life. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. ”

David McGrath, NHMS executive vice president and general manager, said of Bahre: “On behalf of our team at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, I’d like to extend our deepest condolences to Sandy, Gary and the entire Bahre family. Bob left an incredible mark on auto racing through the New England region, and his love of motorsports was legendary. He had a passionate commitment to both drivers and race fans, and that commitment was evident when he built our facility in 1990. I am proud to have known Bob. It was a true pleasure to have spent time getting to know him and learning from him over the years. He will be missed, but his legacy of supporting and building motorsports in New England will live on forever.”

 

Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick state concerns about track prep

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The two winningest Cup drivers this season have raised concerns about how traction compound was applied to Kentucky Speedway last weekend, and the president of the company that owns the track said that if drivers have such concerns they “are welcome and encouraged to call or text me directly.”

What happened at Kentucky is a concern because NASCAR heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for Truck, Xfinity and Cup Series races. That track and Kentucky are both owned by Speedway Motorsports, the company founded by Bruton Smith and run by his family.

Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, who each have a series-high four wins this year, were critical this week of traction compound being re-applied to Kentucky Speedway before last weekend’s Cup race.

“I love the Smith family, but they go rogue sometimes when it comes to thinking that they’re in the competition business,” Hamlin said Friday in a Zoom session with media. “It’s disappointing because the information that NASCAR gets from us on track prep and how to prepare the racetrack to put on the best possible racing comes from the drivers who do it themselves, and they know better than anyone. Better than anyone.”

Said Harvick: “Last week we showed up on race day, the PJ1 (traction compound) was put on the racetrack without anybody knowing.”

Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, responded to their concerns in a statement to NBC Sports.

“I know the drivers want to put on the best show for the fans, and EVERY effort we make as track operators both on the track and in the grandstands is geared toward doing right by the fans.” Smith said in the statement emailed to NBC Sports. “Track prep has been happening for decades, and we unapologetically work for compelling competition that will keep fans on the edge of their seats. Our team at Texas is working hard and I’ve got a seat on the Tire Dragon for any driver who’d like to help us out. The drivers are welcome and encouraged to call or text me directly with any concerns.”

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports on Friday that there is no change to the process of applying traction compound to tracks, adding that drivers are consulted each week and the series has developed a “solid dialogue and process.” The spokesperson also said that if traction compound is re-applied, NASCAR lets drivers know in advance of the race.

MORE: Friday 5: Kyle Busch bewildered by Cup car’s performance 

MORE: Cup starting lineup for Texas

Traction compound is meant to help deliver multiple lanes of racing in the corners, providing more chances for drivers to pass instead of running single-file. It is used at several tracks for Cup, Xfinity and Truck races, including Kentucky, Bristol, Texas, Charlotte, Pocono and Phoenix, among others.

Hamlin is among the drivers who have taken an active role in working with NASCAR on where and when to apply traction compound.

Hamlin said it didn’t take long to see an issue with Kentucky Speedway and where it had applied the traction compound leading into a weekend of racing that included two Xfinity races, an ARCA race, a Truck race and a Cup race.

“The track was prepped in a certain way,” Hamlin said. “We weren’t overjoyed with it to start the weekend, and we saw the Xfinity race, the first couple of races. We had an issue and we really needed to work on it, and the issue is to let that main line run off.

“The only way to stop that one lane racetrack is to let (the traction compound) wear out and with them just going in overnight and respraying that middle lane again before the (Cup) race was just not ideal and there was a lot of people that weren’t happy with it.

We had a four-wide to the finish, that saved the day as far as A, do we have a great race or not? Man, you got to, I really wish SMI in particular would just kind of listen to the guidance in which the drivers and NASCAR give them when it comes to spraying these race tracks.”

For this weekend at Texas, NASCAR stated this is how the track will be prepared:

In Turns 1 and 2, the low groove (approximately 18 feet from the apron) will not be treated. The middle grooves will be treated with PJ1 traction compound and tires will be dragged over that portion. The area treated is about 60 feet wide.

In Turns 3 and 4 at Texas, the low groove (approximately 18 feet from the apron) will not be treated. The middle grooves will be treated with PJ1 traction compound. Tires also will be dragged over that area, which is about 30 feet wide.

Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark to retire in 2020

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Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark will retire following next year’s Cup Series race at the track, Speedway Motorsports Inc. announced Monday.

Clark, 64, is the second-longest tenured employee at SMI, trailing only Bruton Smith, the company founder. Clark joined Speedway Motorsports in 1981 as a member of the public relations department at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He rose through the ranks before being named president of Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1995.

“Growing up on a tobacco farm in Virginia, I never dreamed as a boy that I’d have the opportunity to work in this sport for 44 seasons,” Clark said in a press release.  “I have been privileged to work with and for many amazing people and I will be forever grateful for how they allowed me to follow and live my dream. It’s been a true blessing and a wonderful journey.”

“We are beyond grateful for Ed’s service to our company and to the entire NASCAR community,” said SMI CEO and President Marcus Smith in a press release. “We’re also blessed that Ed will continue to lead Atlanta Motor Speedway through the March 15 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, so that the fans, drivers and sponsors can join us to say ‘thank you’ to a man whose countless contributions and dedication to our sport will be remembered for years to come.”

Speedway Motorsports, Inc. becomes privately owned

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Speedway Motorsports, Inc. and the Sonic Financial Corp. announced Tuesday that Sonic Financial has completed its acquisition of all outstanding shares of SMI, meaning SMI will become a privately owned company with no presence on the New York Stock Exchange.

By going private, the company is no longer beholden to investors and no longer has to publicly report its finances, including how much money it brings in from admissions and the TV contract and the seating capacity of each of its tracks.

Bruton Smith and his family own and control Sonic Financial Corp. Smith is the founder and majority stakeholder in Speedway Motorsports Inc. SMI operates eight tracks that host Cup races, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.

The deal closed with each outstanding share being valued at $19.75 per share in cash. There were 11,434,595 outstanding shares, putting the deal at more than $225 million.

The deal comes as International Speedway Corp. in the process of reaching an agreement to have its outstanding shares sold to NASCAR. The France family owns both ISC and NASCAR. The NASCAR-ISC deal is expected to close this year.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. enters into merger agreement with Sonic Financial

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Speedway Motorsports Inc. announced Wednesday morning that it has entered into a “definitive merger agreement” with Sonic Financial Corp.

Bruton Smith and his family own and control Sonic Financial Corp. Smith is the founder and majority stakeholder in Speedway Motorsports Inc. SMI operates eight tracks that host Cup races, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.

The move would take SMI private just as International Speedway Corp. is in the process of doing with its agreement to have its outstanding shares sold to NASCAR. The France family owns both ISC and NASCAR. The NASCAR-ISC deal is expected to close this year.

SMI’s deal would call for Sonic Financial to acquire all the outstanding shares of SMI common stock at a price of $19.75 per share in cash. Speedway Motorsports’ stock closed at $18.95 a share Tuesday, its highest price in the last year. SMI’s stock was at $13.94 on April 23, the day before SMI announced receiving an offer from Sonic Financial.

In a memo to employees, SMI stated that once the merger is complete: “Speedway Motorsports, Inc. will continue its focus on owning and operating first-class, modern facilities in premier geographic markets, and providing our individual and corporate fans and customers with the best entertainment experience and marketing value in the motorsports industry.”

Also in the memo to employees, SMI stated: “We have no current plans for job eliminations as a result of the proposed transaction. Rather, the proposed transaction will enable us to accelerate our long-term growth plan and transformation, and maintain our focus on providing the best entertainment experience and marketing value in the motorsports industry.”