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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.

ISC, Dover Motorsports report fourth quarter, 2017 financial data

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International Speedway Corp. reported Thursday that its revenue for last year increased to its highest level since 2010, driven by corporate and broadcast partnerships.

Full ISC report here.

ISC reported total revenue of $671.4 million. Last year, ISC’s revenue was $661 million.

ISC reported four sellouts at its tracks in 2017 — the Daytona 500, Watkins Glen, the fall Phoenix Raceway event and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The company had three sellouts in 2016.

Admission revenue for the year declined 1.6 percent. For the fourth quarter of the year (September to November), admission revenue increased 1 percent. That period included eight Cup, six Xfinity, five Truck, two ARCA and one IndyCar event.

ISC reported “some softness” in admissions for the fall Kansas and Martinsville races. Talladega and Phoenix (now ISM Raceway) and Homestead-Miami Speedway, had “strong performances,” while results for Darlington, Richmond and Chicago were “in line with expectations.”

ISC stated that the company is trending toward another sellout for next month’s Daytona 500.

ISC reported that research has shown that the “vast majority of 18- to 34-year-old fans favor the new stage racing format.’’

ISC stated that its initiatives continue to target new and lapsed customers and strategies include “value-added options that enhance the live motorsports experience, including exclusive VIP hospitality experiences with drivers appearances and Q&A sessions.’’ 

ISC also revealed the average ticket price for Cup events last year. Here’s how it compares to recent years.

2017 — $92.19 average ticket price

2016 — $90.12

2015 — $86.10

2014 — $85.82

— Dover Motorsports also issued its report for the fourth quarter and all of 2017.

The company reported its fall 2017 race weekend was comparable with the previous year, noting higher broadcast revenue was offset by “slightly lower event related revenue and higher purses and marketing expenses.’’ Full Dover report here.

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Joe Gibbs, Roger Penske rebut Wall Street Journal story critical of NASCAR, motorsports

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NASCAR team owners Roger Penske and Joe Gibbs reacted Saturday to a Wall Street Journal story from earlier this week that questioned the state and health of motorsports, particularly in NASCAR.

The story also questioned the leadership of NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France and his sister, Lesa France Kennedy, CEO of International Speedway Corporation.

Here are excerpts from the responses by both owners. Gibbs first:

I was interviewed for that article, and there wasn’t one comment I made that was in that article, or there was no slant to anything in there. And so think about this for a minute: What was brought up in that article is that the management team, Brian France, Lesa and everybody, it’s hard for them to make good decisions, fast decisions.

“I think nothing could be farther from the truth. Think about our sport. Three years ago we completely changed the Chase. Huge, big decision. We now have charters. In one year working with Brian France, NASCAR, the owners were able to put together charters. Huge deal for us. We come back this year, and in a short period of time, we now have stage racing.

“I would say that that (story) is so far off, nothing could be farther from the truth. I think everybody is engaged. I think everybody from Brian on down. We’ve had meetings with owners and with (manufacturers) and everybody. I don’t know of anything that’s ‑‑ where a sport has tried to reach out, please the fans, and make huge decisions.

“The second thing I would say on that, we announced FedEx the other day, a new extension for them, a long‑term extension. There’s three other sponsors that we also did that with our race team alone. We saw Shell come in and make a huge decision with Roger. We also have two new sponsors coming in that we can’t announce right now that will probably be announced within the month, okay. We have seven at Joe Gibbs Racing, us alone, and I said this in that statement to the Wall Street Journal, we have four Cup cars that are well‑funded, going to go like mad with some of the biggest and best sponsors in the world. We have three Xfinity cars, okay, well‑funded, going to go like mad and race like mad.

“Our sport, as far as I’m concerned, has a bright future. I think you don’t get the biggest and best companies in America involved in our sport and going as hard as they are and re‑upping and signing unless you’ve got a sport that brings value to the table. So thank you for asking that question. I felt strongly about it. I wanted to say that.”

Gibbs was also asked why the Wall Street Journal reportedly interviewed a number of other executives within the sport, but their responses were also not used in the story.

I would love for the key owners and key (manufacturers) to have a chance in a forum to talk about it and talk about the sport, because I think we all know that you can take a series of interviews and probably slant it any way you wanted to,” Gibbs said. “My personal opinion, I just kind of felt like this thing was already going in a direction, and it was like when I was asked questions, it was, we’re headed one direction, I don’t care what you say.

“Now, maybe that’s not fair and I know that, but I felt it. I felt that. I felt it personally. And I take it because this is all my family, J.D., Coy, all of us, all we do is race every day, and I think our sport is healthy, and with our sponsors, I think we’re proof of that.

“I think Barney (Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser) and the people that came on board with him this year, and I think when you’ve got companies you’re sitting next to somebody like a Toyota, the biggest and strongest companies in the world are in our sport, I really think that could have been written in a totally different way. But you’re never quite sure what the objective was.”

Roger Penske
Roger Penske

Roger Penske also offered his thoughts on the Wall Street Journal story:

“I was really disappointed in the outcome of that because they talked about inside the France organization, which really is not pertinent to what’s going on on the race track or in the stands.  When I look at the sport, and I go back to 2006 when I ran the Super Bowl in Detroit. We were lucky to have 70,000 seats and to think about every weekend we have better than a Super Bowl 38 times.

“People need to take that into consideration, and then as you stack the media and the social media on top of that, I think the connection is amazing and with the disruption we’re gonna have now with these three different segments, certainly when we announce a sponsorship like Shell yesterday for seven years and you see FedEx, I think that there’s never been more competition on the race track.

“I think what we have to do as a group, the people in this room, we have to take a little different look at this. Certainly, we built these stadiums – we had Michigan and we had California – and we just probably built too many seats because after the financial crisis, there’s no question the spendable income that people had just wasn’t available to do things like this two or three times a year.

“It’s not just in our sport. The NFL was down seven percent and no one is talking about that, so I think we need to move on and talk about the racing. There are a lot of young kids coming up in this sport. We’ve got great sponsors and certainly the TV guys have connected with the drivers and the car owners on this format, the rule changes, and I think we’ve got to go racing.”

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ISC approves $178 million renovation of Phoenix International Raceway

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International Speedway Corporation’s Board of Directors has approved a multi-year renovation project of Phoenix International Raceway that will cost $178 million. The project is scheduled to be completed in late 2018.

NBC Sports first reported the proposed plans for the project on Nov. 17.

The renovation is ISC’s first major project following completion of the $400 million renovation of Daytona International Speedway.

The project includes:

  • Moving the start-finish line to what is now Turn 2.
  • Frontstretch grandstands being eliminated and replaced by an elevated RV parking lot with additional parking behind it.
  • The Allison grandstand in Turn 2 will be extended to go through the entire turn.
  • Pit road will be moved closer to the infield and will have a tighter radius. That will allow additional space between the track and pit road.

Click here for more details

“Phoenix Raceway provides a one-of-a-kind setting for some of the most exciting and thrilling races that the sport has to offer,” said ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy in a press release. “This project will further enhance that experience and ensure that the venue continues to be a treasured destination for race fans.”

PIR holds two NASCAR race weekends, including the final elimination race of the Chase, and one Verizon IndyCar race. Work on the project is expected to start in early 2017.

GEICO to sponsor restart zone at 11 ISC tracks, starts this weekend

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GEICO is expanding its NASCAR involvement, the company announced Friday at Talladega Superspeedway.

  • First, GEICO will sponsor the on-track restart zone at Talladega this entire weekend. Then, beginning in 2017, GEICO will sponsor the on-track restart zone at 11 of International Speedway Corporation’s racetracks that hold NASCAR events.

Those tracks that will carry the GEICO Restart Zone next season are Chicagoland Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Daytona International Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway, Richmond International Raceway, Talladega Superspeedway and Watkins Glen International. Auto Club Speedway is not included.

  • Second, GEICO will continue its entitlement of the GEICO 500 through 2019, including Talladega’s 50th anniversary in that same year, as well. GEICO has been an entitlement partner with Talladega since 2014.

“We’re excited about extending our relationship with GEICO, one of the largest auto insurers in the U.S.,” Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch said in a media release. “This race, known for its thrilling on-track action at NASCAR’s most competitive track, will continue to provide an incredible platform for GEICO to engage with fans.”

  • Third, GEICO – which is the second-largest private passenger auto insurance company in the U.S. – will continue holding naming rights to campgrounds at eight ISC facilities: Chicagoland, Darlington, Daytona, Homestead-Miami, Phoenix, Richmond, Talladega and Watkins Glen.

“The GEICO partnership is a great example of how large brands can leverage the power of ISC’s scale,” ISC Chief Marketing Officer Daryl Wolfe said in a release. “GEICO has been a terrific partner to the Sport for years and this new agreement is a testament to how a brand such as GEICO can leverage the Sport in multiple and distinct areas, while continuing to drive engagement with the most brand loyal fans in all of Sports.”

Geico also sponsors the No. 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup car of Casey Mears.

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