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NASCAR announces merger agreement with International Speedway Corp.

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International Speedway Corp. announced Wednesday morning that it has entered into an agreement and plan of merger with NASCAR. The deal is valued at approximately $2 billion.

Shareholders will receive $45 for each share.

This deal is expected to close this calendar year.

International Speedway Corp. owns 12 tracks that host NASCAR races, including Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NASCAR issued a statement Wednesday: “We are pleased with the progress that the negotiation and execution of the merger agreement between NASCAR and ISC represents.  While important regulatory and shareholder approval processes remain, we look forward to the successful final resolution of this matter and continuing our work to grow this sport and deliver great racing experiences for our fans everywhere. With a strong vision for the future, the France family’s commitment to NASCAR and the larger motorsports industry has never been greater.”

NASCAR Chairman Jim France told competitors in the drivers meeting before the Daytona 500 that “this sport was built by families and we’re just a part of it. It’s so important that we remember that this is still a family business. Our family is committed to it.”

The agreement announced Wednesday allows NASCAR to control those tracks, along with Iowa Speedway, which it already owns. That could make it easier for NASCAR to move dates to take a date from one track to another. NASCAR President Steve Phelps has stated that the schedule is among the areas the sanctioning body is looking at making changes. NASCAR’s five-year sanctioning agreement with tracks ends after next season.

With NASCAR private, it won’t have to publicly report attendance revenue and other financials as ISC had to do as a publicly traded company.

ISC also announced that a class-action lawsuit that had been filed against it after NASCAR and ISC announced last November plans to merge will be dropped.

Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns eight tracks that host NASCAR races, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, announced April 24 that it had 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.

The only tracks not owned by ISC or SMI that host Cup races are Pocono Raceway, Dover International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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

Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway
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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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Long: How rules package, hard tire played key role in Denny Hamlin’s win

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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FORT WORTH, Texas — Any other year, Denny Hamlin likely doesn’t win. But a new rules package, combined with key strategy calls and a tire that didn’t fall off much, allowed Hamlin to rally from two pit road penalties to win Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

No driver had come back from two pit road penalties in the same race to win since Brad Keselowski did it in October 2014 at Talladega. But that was restrictor-plate racing, and Keselowski’s penalties came during the same caution period a third of the way through that race.

Hamlin faced a much different situation at Texas.

The first half of Hamlin’s race was a mess. He missed pit road on Lap 63 and was speeding on pit road when he made it there on Lap 64.

“I was just beating my head against the steering wheel thinking, ‘Man, we’re going to finish bad with a really fast car,’“ Hamlin said.

An uncontrolled tire on Lap 173 of the 334-lap race sent Hamlin to the back.

“It was a very rough day,” crew chief Chris Gabehart said.

Just as Gabehart’s pit calls helped Hamlin win the Daytona 500, Gabehart again guided his driver to victory Sunday.

Gabehart could do so because of the rules and the tire.

The new rules package is intended to keep the field closer together. That creates more opportunities to pass. Previously, the fields at Texas Motor Speedway would spread out, making it harder to gain ground a few laps after a restart.

Denny Hamlin pits for fuel in the final laps at Texas Motor Speedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Gabehart said that this was not a track position race because how cars could move through the field. Just as important was that the tires did not have a significant drop off in time during the course of a run. Had these been tires that wore, Gabehart would not have been able to call for no-tire stops. He would have had to change four tires each stop and Hamlin would not have been able to leapfrog some cars through strategy.

A no-tire stop put Hamlin in the lead on Lap 156, and he won the second stage, which ended at Lap 170. Hamlin came down pit road during that caution for four tires. He was penalized for the uncontrolled tire during that stop, dropping him outside the top 15.

Gabehart called for a no-tire stop a second time during caution on Lap 256. Hamlin restarted sixth behind three cars that did not pit and two others that also did not take tires. 

“For our scenario each time, it just made the most sense,” Gabehart said of the no-tire calls.

Hamlin took the lead on Lap 303 from teammate Erik Jones when Jones pitted for two tires and fuel. Hamlin relinquished the lead on Lap 319 for enough fuel to make it to the end. When the field cycled through, Hamlin was back in front because of how little time he had spent on pit road.

“This is a complete different style of racing than what I used to do in the past,” Hamlin said. “I have to adapt. Seems like I’m adapting quickly.”

As is Gabehart.


Rarely do you hear NASCAR officials so candid and raw as Steve O’Donnell was Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The topic was group qualifying and the issues that have pervaded the sport the past month.

Cars parked on pit road during qualifying at Texas. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Asked if he was angered by the controversy, O’Donnell said: “I think it’s ridiculous, candidly. I know the drivers did not like this qualifying before the season. Part of you says, ‘Are (they) doing this on purpose to get rid of it?’ “

O’Donnell’s comments were part of an offensive that series officials have gone on since Auto Club Speedway last month when all 12 cars failed to complete a lap before time expired in the final round.

Driver complaints about the qualifying have been constant since.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps appeared on “The Dale Jr. Download” (5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBCSN) and was vocal about what has happened in qualifying.

“That was unacceptable if I was a race fan and unacceptable if I was at the race track,” Phelps said of this past weekend.

Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition, expressed his displeasure with what happened March 15 at Auto Club Speedway, saying the actions of drivers made “a mockery” of qualifying. Miller also said of the drivers not completing a lap in time: “It surprised me that they weren’t smart enough to go out.”

Last weekend at Texas, Jay Fabian, Cup series director, also raised questions about the drivers’ actions, saying: “Some of it is a little confusing because they say they don’t want to go out first … but (Daniel Suarez) went out by himself and transferred twice by himself. They say you got to follow somebody, but they chose to not follow him. I don’t understand why they didn’t.”

Since Auto Club Speedway, various NASCAR officials have used the term “mockery,” “ridiculous,” and “unacceptable” in discussing qualifying, and O’Donnell even said it makes one wonder if the drivers are doing this on purpose to get rid of the format.

Strong words but the time will come for action. The draft won’t be a factor in qualifying until Kansas next month (Talladega already has single-car qualifying) so NASCAR has some time to address the matter. The question is how strong will NASCAR’s response be?


The driver who might have had the most reason to be upset with NASCAR moving the championship race from Miami to ISM Raceway in 2020 would be Kyle Larson, but he wasn’t.

Miami is one of Larson’s best tracks and had he qualified for the championship race, he likely would have been the favorite regardless of who the other contenders were.

“Even though Homestead has been a track where I can lead a bunch of laps and also challenge for the win, I’ve always felt like it needs to go somewhere else,” Larson said. “I would like to see it go … to a different track every year.


Kyle Busch has one more race left this season in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Busch, who has won his first four starts this season, is limited to five races in that series because of his Cup experience.

Busch’s remaining race is next month’s event at Charlotte. It will mark the earliest his Truck season has ended. Part of the reason he races in the Truck series is to help improve his equipment at Kyle Busch Motorsports for his other drivers. With being done so early in the season, how will that impact the organization’s performance the rest of the year?

Kyle Busch has won all four Truck races he’s entered this season. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“For us, we aren’t a Cup team and so we move a lot slower than the Cup teams do,” Busch said. “You all talked about how when everybody got done with the West Coast swing, the first time people would have updates to their cars would be Texas. I don’t think we would see an update to our stuff for two months. It just takes a bit longer to kind of get all that instilled into our stuff.

“If you look at me running the front side of the season and running as much as I do right now, we’ve been building some notes, and we’ve been building some things that we can work on and get better and do a little bit differently, so when we get to say July, August – that’s when you’ll start seeing some stuff coming out.

“That will be the brunt of the season, kind of closing in for the playoffs and then the playoff push. I’d like to run more or maybe I’d like to run a little bit later, but I just don’t know that the races fall, especially with me – like going to Iowa, I’ve never been to Iowa. Gateway, those places, I don’t need to go to those places, so it doesn’t make any sense for me to go to those places.”


Tyler Ankrum was excited after his sixth-place finish in Friday night’s Truck race. It was just the fourth career start in the series for the 18-year-old. That tied his career-high finish. He also placed sixth at ISM Raceway but Friday’s run was special because it was his first race on a 1.5-mile speedway.

“It’s kind of still surreal,” Ankrum said after the race. “I”m racing against (Matt) Crafton, Kyle Busch and (Johnny) Sauter. It’s crazy. I even passed Sauter on the outside! I don’t think you realize how important that is for me. I had a ton of fun and can’t wait to come back.”

He wasn’t the only driver who had a memorable weekend. Saturday’s Xfinity race saw Jeb Burton finish fifth in his first start of the season for JR Motorsports (Burton is back in the car next month in Charlotte).

As Burton talked about his finish to Performance Racing Network, he got emotional.

Other notable finishes from the weekend: William Byron‘s sixth-place finish matched his career-best result in Cup. Ryan Sieg won his first stage in the Xfinity Series on Saturday. Ronnie Bassett Jr. finished 15th in the Xfinity race, the second-career start for the 23-year-old.

Aric Almirola fights through stomach bug for sixth straight top 10

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While it wasn’t a race-winning effort like Brad Keselowski at Atlanta last month, Aric Almirola fought through a stomach illness to manage an impressive showing in Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Without a relief driver on standby, the Stewart-Haas Racing piloted his No. 10 Ford to a seventh-place finish.

Almirola felt “tired” and “really, really depleted” after his sixth consecutive top 10, a career-best streak.

“It was a long night last night. I didn’t sleep at all, throwing up with a stomach bug,” Almirola said. “I haven’t been able to keep anything down, so I’m just really hungry, and I’m really tired.”

Almirola joins Keselowski at Atlanta and Austin Dillon at Auto Club Speedway in notable driver performances this year despite illnesses. Dillon finished 10th for his first top 10 of the year.

While Keselowski and Dillon had relief drivers on standby, missing Sunday’s race wasn’t an option as far as Almirola was concerned.

“We don’t get to call in sick,” Almirola said. “That’s the challenging part of our job occasionally. The flu or a cold or a stomach bug pops up and you’ve got to fight through it.

“I’m really proud of everybody on our Smithfield Prime Fresh Ford Mustang.  We had a good car and track position there and strategy and pit stops and stuff, and we still got out of here with a top 10, so that’s six in a row. I’m proud of that.”

Clint Bowyer gets ‘unclogged’, feels enlightened after runner-up finish

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Clint Bowyer might have lost his patience with NASCAR after another group qualifying fiasco, but the Stewart-Haas Racing driver didn’t lose his sense of humor.

Rebounding from starting 25th and failing to advance from the first round of another controversial qualifying session, Bowyer finished a season-best second Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway and then took a playful shot at race officials

“Unclogged,” Bowyer told reporters with a laugh when asked how he felt after his second top five of the season and first since Feb. 24 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.We definitely unclogged ourselves from qualifying.”

It was a not-so-subtle reference to his displeasure with NASCAR after feeling he was blocked by Ryan Newman during qualifying. A directive was issued last week warning drivers against “clogging” the middle lane in the pits. Newman wasn’t penalized.

“I read the rulebook again, which you have to be about a lawyer to read anymore, and you’re not supposed to clog the middle, and I couldn’t tell if that was an acceptable amount of clog, or not enough clogging or what kind of clogging level that was,” he said Friday to FS1 after earning his second-worst starting spot of the year. “Because at a certain point of cloggingness of the middle lane, you will get disallowed of your time is how I read that.”

By Sunday, Bowyer had shook it off, and his No. 14 Ford capably navigated traffic over 500 miles on the 1.5-mile oval.

Though he didn’t earn any stage points, Bowyer and crew chief Mike Bugarewicz played strategy well and finished 2.743 seconds behind winner Denny Hamlin.

“(The car) wasn’t lightning fast all day long, but as they started slip sliding around and struggling we’d kind of prevail on those long runs,” Bowyer said. “All in all, I’m really happy to finish where we were.  What a wild race.  Just about the time you think you’re going to have some stage points the caution would come out and then you thought you were back in, and it happened again.  Then you’re like, ‘Well, damn.  What kind of haymakers are going to be thrown at the end?’, and it just didn’t.

“Anytime you finish second it’s like, ‘What could I have done?’  When (Hamlin) came out of the pits that far ahead of us I was like, ‘We’re in big trouble,’ but second is not bad for the way our weekend started.”

It actually was a major improvement for a driver who has felt burned multiple times by group qualifying the past few years as NASCAR has sorted out how to make the system work with drafting and the 2019 rules package.

“We had to unclog ourselves,” Bowyer told FS1 with a smile. “Once we unclogged ourselves, we were really good.”