Steve Phelps

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NASCAR inks deal with Genius Sports to create live betting product

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NASCAR announced Friday a multi-year deal with Genius Sports for the company to be the exclusive provider of NASCAR data to licensed sportsbooks. The new agreement is the first step toward creating an advanced live betting product.

“This is exciting for us as a league and as a sport in what we believe we can accomplish,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said Friday at Dover International Speedway.

This access to NASCAR’s official data will allow Genius Sports to create a real-time gaming platform that provides up-to-the-minute odds and a variety of traditional wagers and prop bets.

“NASCAR fans are some of the most devoted in the world, and we look forward to helping them to create a deeper, more connected experience that is both safe and secure as the business of sports betting continues to evolve in the U.S.,” said Mark Locke, Genius Sports CEO, in a statement. “Furthermore, our global relationships will help bring the excitement of NASCAR racing to new audiences both within the U.S. and in new territories around the world.”

Genius Sports is partnered with the NBA and NCAA and an integrity partner with the Premier League and PGA Tour.

SMI receives offer from Sonic Financial Corp. to acquire all outstanding shares of common stock

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Speedway Motorsports Inc. announced Wednesday that it has received a non-binding proposal from Sonic Financial Corp. to acquire all outstanding shares of common stock other than those already held by Sonic.

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.

This action follows NASCAR’s non-binding offer Nov. 9 to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Class A and B common stock of International Speedway Corp. not already owned by the controlling shareholders of NASCAR.  That offer has not been completed. There is a class-action suit in a Florida court on behalf of the Firemen’s Retirement System of St. Louis regarding the purchase price for the outstanding stock.

The separate offers to ISC and SMI would make both companies private. That could allow both companies to be more receptive to future schedule changes without the pressure of trying to appease outside investors.

When asked about future agreements with tracks, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said earlier this month on the Dale Jr. Download: “We have to do some things differently. Fans want us to do things differently, and I think we need to do it as quickly as we can within reason, understanding that there are three legs to that stool and one of those legs are the tracks.”

The Sonic Financial Corp. offer for the outstanding SMI stock is for $18 per share. The stock closed at $13.94 on Tuesday. The stock was up to $18.46 by 11 a.m. Wednesday and finished the day at $18.55. The 52-week high for the stock was $18.36. SMI’s board has formed a special committee to consider the offer. Mark M. Gambill, James P. Holden and Tom E. Smith, each of whom is an independent director of the Company, to act on behalf of the Company to consider the proposal by Sonic Financial. Tom E. Smith is not related to Bruton Smith or his family.

Here is the letter from Sonic Financial Corp. to the Board of Directors for SMI:

Sonic Financial Corporation (“SFC”) is pleased to submit this non-binding proposal to acquire all of the outstanding shares of stock of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (the “Company” or “TRK”) that are not owned by SFC, O. Bruton Smith, his family and entities controlled by Mr. Smith and his family (collectively with SFC, the “Smith  Group”),  for  cash  consideration  of  $18.00  per  share  (our  “Proposal”).  As  you  know,  the  Smith  Group  beneficially  owns,  directly  or  indirectly, approximately 29 million shares of TRK, and controls over 70% of the voting power of TRK.

We believe that our Proposal reflects an extremely attractive value to the Company’s public stockholders. Specifically, $18.00 per share represents a significant premium of 31% to yesterday’s closing price and 26% to the 30-day volume-weighted average price per share of $14.27 as of April 22, 2019.

As you know, NASCAR racing has faced several challenges in recent years, and the Company has been impacted by these challenges. NASCAR has indicated the sport would benefit from structural change. We believe TRK would be more able to compete in this challenging and changing environment as a private company.

SFC and members of the Smith Group are best-positioned to continue to manage and oversee the Company as a private company. Mr. Bruton Smith, Executive Chairman and founder of the Company, has been a pioneer in the motorsports business since the sport’s beginning. His ingenuity and vision for the sport have been highly instrumental in the motorsports business for decades, and the sport has recognized his contributions by inducting him into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Additionally, Mr. Marcus Smith, the current Chief Executive Officer of the Company, has played a key role in the motorsports industry and has also been an important figure in the evolution of the sport and the Company over the past several years. Given the Smith Group’s role in the sport and involvement in the Company, we believe we are the best party to lead the Company through the challenges ahead.

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Bristol official responds to report regarding Nashville efforts

Fairgounds Speedway Nashville
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An executive involved in Speedway Motorsports Inc.’s efforts to bring NASCAR national series racing back to Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, Tennessee, responded Tuesday to a report about the company’s talks with city officials.

SMI officials have had discussions with Mayor David Briley and his administration about how to finance the upgrades needed to the track to bring NASCAR national series races there. The Tennessean reported Tuesday that SMI pitched a plan that called for $54 million in bond payments and $2 million cash from the city. The proposal was rejected by Briley’s administration.

Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, issued a statement responding to The Tennessean’s article.

“Our very first step has been to engage Mayor Briley to explore potential renovation of the speedway that would allow major races to return to Nashville. This renovation can be accomplished through a cooperative partnership by utilizing revenues from increased activity at the Fairgrounds and private investment without the use of current Metro tax dollars.

“Recognizing that the city has an obligation to maintain their racetrack long into the future, we are offering an opportunity for private partnership that delivers an attractive, long-term solution to improve a historic, public treasure that has been in decline in recent years.

“We look forward to sharing our proposal with the Fair Board, Councilman (Colby) Sledge and the neighboring community. We are confident that this partnership will achieve a brighter, more successful future for the speedway, the Fairgrounds and the community. We appreciate interest by the mayor and Fair Board so far because in the end we all want the same thing – a first class facility.”

During Tuesday’s Fair Board meeting, board member Jason Bergeron lamented a “transparency problem” with plans Speedway Motorsports Inc. has for Fairgrounds Speedway.

“It’s been eight months and we haven’t heard any details, and I don’t think there’s been any real talks with the community … it’s just a little frustrating,” Bergeron said during the meeting, according to video by The Tennessean. “We have these renovations ready to go with the speedway. It keeps going on and on. We have no concrete proposal and there has been no real engagement with the community.”

When asked earlier this month about Nashville hosting a national series race, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said on the Dale Jr. Download: “What’s going to happen moving forward into 2021? Are we going to be racing in Nashville or not? I don’t know. I know that at least I’ve been told, (Speedway Motorsports, Inc. CEO) Marcus (Smith) has had discussions with the folks in Nashville at the fairgrounds.

“How likely is that going to happen? Right now he has no sanctioning agreement for 2021, so he can’t bring anything there. If he wants to bring something there, obviously NASCAR has to have an involvement. They are our dates. We will absolutely (get involved) when it’s time.”

Fairgrounds Speedway faces setback with cancellation of All American 400

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Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, a possible site for future NASCAR national series races, announced Wednesday that it has canceled Sunday’s 34th All American 400 Super Late Model race because of impending rain.

Kyle Busch was scheduled to compete in the event, which is among the top Super Late Model races in the country.

The cancellation comes a day after The Tennessean reported that the track’s operator breached its contract with Nashville Fairgrounds.

Last week, The Tennessean reported that financing to upgrade the .596-mile racing facility and other matters have led to questions about the viability of bringing a national series NASCAR race back to Nashville.

Bristol Motor Speedway and the track’s operator entered into an agreement in December to try to bring NASCAR national series events to the track.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. asked NASCAR President Steve Phelps on the Dale Jr. Download about a national series race returning to Nashville.

“Are we going to be racing in Nashville or not? I don’t know,” Phelps said. “I know that at least I’ve been told, (Speedway Motorsports, Inc. CEO) Marcus (Smith) has had discussions with the folks in Nashville at the fairgrounds. How likely is that going to happen? Right now he has no sanctioning agreement for 2021, so he can’t bring anything there. If he wants to bring something there, obviously NASCAR has to have an involvement. They are our dates. We will absolutely (get involved) when it’s time.”

The All American 400 Super Late Model race was set to run last fall before it was postponed by rain and rescheduled for this weekend. Sunday’s forecast for Nashville, Tennessee, calls for a 100 percent chance of rain, according to wunderground.com

“The forecast is awful for this weekend and we don’t want the racers and fans to have to spend the money in travel costs to come here for nothing,” said Claire Formosa, VP of Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville, on the track’s Facebook page. “Many of the drivers were coming from a long way, so we wanted to do this early to help them out. We are now going to focus on our regular season opener next Saturday and get prepared for the 35th All American 400 this year.”

The All American 400 is scheduled for Nov. 3, 2019.

This decision comes after questions about certain actions by the track promoters.

The Tennessean reported this week that Laura Womack, Nashville Fairgrounds director, notified track operators Tony and Claire Formosa in a letter that they have 30 days to remedy issues.

According to the newspaper’s report, Womack said that the Formosas:

# Failed to pay rent on time.

# Owe $31,930 from concessions revenue from the 2018 season.

# Violated track rental curfew on March 27.

The Tennessean reported that the track’s rent for January to March was paid April 4.

Womack requested that the Formosas appear at the Fair Board meeting April 16 to address the matters.

Claire Formosa told the Tennessean that “there are some things that we are aware of that we have taken care of, like the office rent. The other two things … there is a lot more to it than what is being stated in the letter.”

 

 

 

NASCAR moves toward new sponsor model despite Monster’s offer

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NASCAR is moving forward with a new multitiered approach to title sponsorship despite overtures from Monster Energy about returning for a fourth year as primary backer of its premier series.

A person with direct knowledge of the talks confirmed Monster’s interest to NBC Sports and said it’s probable there will be three tiers in 2020 to replace the traditional title sponsor model. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about negotiations.

The news that Monster had offered to extend its title sponsorship was first reported by the Sports Business Journal, which also reported that the company could become a lower-level partner.

NASCAR initially revealed its new plan for title sponsorship a year ago while announcing Monster’s one-year extension through the 2019 season. NASCAR President Steve Phelps said then it was “highly unlikely” that Monster would return as the sole title sponsor of the Cup Series, which it joined in 2017 in replacing Sprint.

The new sponsorship model will bundle assets from NASCAR, its tracks, TV networks and teams in hopes of increasing value to make it easier to sell to prospects.

In a Nov. 18 news conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Phelps said there had been “a significant number of meetings with potential sponsors.

“There is a general excitement around what the model could be and where it’s going.  So, I’m bullish on making sure that we have the right sponsors in there, and I’m bullish that it’s going to do what it is intended to do, which is to make sure that we are getting sponsors at that highest level and rewarding them for what they do for our sport.”