Go West NASCAR man, Go West
by Stan Creekmore, NASCAR Editor

June 13, 2003

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NASCAR President Mike Helton announced phase one of "Realignment 2004" on Friday afternoon at Michigan Speedway, which involved a shuffling of dates between North Carolina Speedway, Darlington Raceway and California Speedway.

California Speedway will host a second NASCAR event in 2004 on Labor Day weekend. The September 5th event will start at 5 p.m. Pacific time providing the race with a prime time slot on the East Coast for NBC.

"Today is a day that has been seven years in the making," said Bill Miller, California Speedway President, adding the race would be sponsored by Pop Secret, the same company that sponsored North Carolina Speedway's now lost November date.

Darlington Raceway holds onto two dates, with the second visit to the track in 2004 now scheduled for November 14th, the next to the last race on the schedule.

John Saunders, President of International Speedway Corporation, says the changes are best for the fans, the media, the teams, the shareholders and the sport.

"We are pleased NASCAR has looked favorably on our proposal," said Saunders, adding that ISC would not abandon North Carolina Speedway. "We have not plans to go beyond realignment 2004."

Rockingham President Chris Browning took the move in stride saying his charge would now be to concentrate on selling out his single Winston Cup event while searching out additional ways to make use of the facility outside of Winston Cup racing. Losing the second date will likely cost the community $25 million dollars in economic impact.

Saunders is confident North Carolina will survive. "We have several tracks that survive quite well with just one date. They learn to adjust cost, structure their personnel more appropriately and pursue other events to generate income. Everything we have modeled says Rockingham will survive can single date."

This is not the first time, in the 54-year history of NASCAR, that tracks have lost dates. When the schedule was realigned in 1972 a large number of small facilities didn't make the cut. However, this is Darlington and Rockingham and this is a piece of tradition long time fans are having a time accepting.

To those people Mike Helton says, "this is an opportunity to grow the sport in a modern way."

Tradition aside, the move by ISC to shuffle dates between North Carolina Speedway, Darlington Raceway and California Speedway was something the largest track operator in motor sports could not avoid.

Being a publicly traded company means answering to your investors , even if the answer smacks the face of tradition right across the nose.

The author can be contacted stanc@autoracing1.com

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