Big business holds New Hampshire's fate

It is the first question on everyone's mind.

What now?

Now that New Hampshire International Speedway has been sold off to corporate America, deftly renamed the New Hampshire Motor Speedway and put in the hands of people who count success by the millions, what's to become of the track's two annual NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races?

Do they stay or do they go?

Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.

Bahre gets $340 million for track

Bob Bahre finally cashed in on his investment.

The 80-year-old businessman from Paris, Maine, sold New Hampshire International Speedway to Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc. on Friday. The track in Loudon, N.H., which opened in 1990 and hosts two major NASCAR races annually, was sold for the price of $340 million.

Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.


Racers chime in on New Hampshire sale

Here's a sampling of some of the thoughts circulating in the racing world regarding Speedway Motorsports Inc.'s purchase of New Hampshire International Speedway from Bob Bahre on Friday:

ANDY SANTERRE, 3-time Busch East Series winner at the track:

"There were a lot of race fans in New England before, but they could never go and see NASCAR racing up close (without traveling). Honestly, that’s where anybody from New England went. Guys like myself — or Ricky Craven wouldn’t have made it to Cup — if New Hampshire wasn’t there. We got noticed because it brought the big boys to New England. Without that, I don’t think a lot of us would have had the opportunity.

“The Bahres did a great job with the place, and to have two (Cup) dates, they were very fortunate. A lot of that was what they’ve done for NASCAR in past. But if (Bruton Smith) spent that kind of money, he might want to move a race to one of his tracks that only has one race.”

KURT BUSCH, who swept the two NHIS Cup races in 2004:

"New Hampshire has a great fan base. They sell out that race track every year we go up there. The Northeast loves their NASCAR. I would hope that racetrack keeps at least one date. I would like to see us go to a lot of race tracks just once a year and maybe trim the schedule down, but that’ll never happen.

"But (moving one of the dates), it’ll make every race that’s at their race track more important and drivers will feel more excited about winning each race — to do it when there is only one win that you can get at a track each year. But, Vegas would start off in the Chase. It would be a little warm out there the first of September. I don’t know. All of it is speculation."


"The success of NHIS, and the desire of the Bahre family to sell, made the track very attractive to SMI and several other interested buyers. SMI has a highly regarded record for hosting some of the most successful and enjoyable race events in all of NASCAR, and there's no doubt that will continue.

"While we don't have any details about SMI's plans for NHIS, all sanctions for 2008 have been signed and finalized. As a result, there will be no location changes to the 2008 schedule that was released last month. This is important to the fans, competitors, broadcast partners and sponsors who have already made plans for the 2008 races.

"Looking beyond 2008, NASCAR will continue to consider requests by any track operator, including SMI, to relocate race dates. Under NASCAR's "realignment" plan, we have worked with track owners to relocate race dates to meet the needs of our growing national fan base. Ultimately, any change must meet NASCAR�s objectives and serve our fans.

"The industry owes Bob and Gary Bahre a debt of gratitude for their leadership and commitment to NASCAR. All of NASCAR wishes the Bahre family well during this time of transition. They will always be considered pioneers in NASCAR."

Smith buys NHIS from Bahre

It's official.

For the price tag of $340 million, Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc. have purchased New Hampshire International Speedway from Bob Bahre. Less than half an hour ago, Smith said announced the purchase, which is expected to be completed early next year.

SMI now owns 7 tracks that will hold a total of 12 Nextel Cup Series races in 2008. New Hampshire first held a Cup race in 1993 and has held 2 races annually since 1997.
Smith didn't announce any change to the track's annual schedule, though did say he's already begun thinking about the facility after visiting with an engineer.
"I do not have any plans to share at this time," Smith said.

NHIS will also have a name change and will be known as New Hampshire Motor Speedway, putting it more in line with other SMI holdings, such as Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Lowe's Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.

Texas presser slated for 12:30 p.m. today

Conveniently, the Nextel Cup Series is in Forth Worth, Texas, this weekend for the running of the Dickies 500.

Of course, Texas Motor Speedway is one of the tracks own by Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc. A press conference is expected to come at 12:30 p.m. today with news of New Hampshire International Speedway's sale to SMI.

According to a report on ThatsRacin.com, no dates will be changed in 2008, as NASCAR has already set the schedule for next season. 2009 and beyond, however, are a different story.

NHIS.com is already advertising next year's Lenox 300 on June 29 -- just 240 days away.

Bahre's timing makes perfect sense

If nothing else, Bob Bahre has always been a smart businessman.

He knew people in New England would eat up big-time NASCAR stock car racing. He knew that by keeping local tours like Busch East and Modifieds on his schedule it would foster good public relations around these parts. He knows that treating a big business like a small-town general store works.

Bahre's also smart enough to know to get out while the getting's good.

Everywhere you look, NASCAR's "stock" is plummeting. The racing is routinely criticized for being more boring than ever. The television ratings drop on what seems to be an event-by-event basis. Tracks may report sellouts, but the camera shots tell us otherwise virtually everywhere the Nextel Cup Series goes -- Talladega (yep), Atlanta (uh-huh), California (naturally)...

Add in that you've got Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc. throwing millions upon millions of dollars you're way for your little New Hampshire International Speedway -- and what's a good businessman to do?

New England fans know that keeping their 2 Cup races is now a pipe dream, that they will be lucky to have 1 race a year if and when Smith gets control of the track. In fact, it's a very real possibility that in the matter of a few short years, Cup racing will be gone entirely from the antiquated little track in the nation's northeast. It's no big secret that among Smith's first order of business will be to move 1 of the dates to his Las Vegas facility, perhaps for the start of the Chase in 2009.

NASCAR is big business now, of course. Hundreds of millions of dollars is a small price for someone like Smith to pay for NHIS's 2 coveted Cup dates -- money Smith could easily make back 10-fold in a couple of seasons by simply moving his race to bigger, more profitable tracks.

Bahre's son, Gary, has never had any interest in running the track for his father, now 80. That being said, the family ought to get out while the getting's good.

In such a fickle business, all it would take is a couple of years worth of NASCAR in a downward spiral for the Bahres to be left with next to nothing. It may hurt for the fans to hear it, but there will never be a more appropriate time to sell the place.

All you can hope for now is that Smith doesn't want to change what's at work at NHIS already -- as ridiculous as we all know that notion to be.


Report: NHIS could be sold

According to a report in today's Boston Globe, New Hampshire International Speedway is being sold.

Globe racing writer Michael Vega says that NHIS owner Bob Bahre has reached an agreement with Bruton Smith to sell the track. Smith, under the guise of Speedway Motorsports Inc., already has 6 tracks encompassing 10 Nextel Cup Series race dates.

NHIS officials, according to Vega's story, said there's nothing to report. Still, a press conference could come as early as Friday with news of an official sale.

If Smith gets control of NHIS, the fear is that Cup racing will leave New England. Smith desperately wants to add a 2nd race at his Las Vegas facility, and it's unlikely that NHIS would continue to hold its place as both the 1st race of the Chase and the 1st race in the "Race to the Chase."


Victory champagne makes for a sticky mess

Cleaning off the desk while waiting for the fine folks at 51 Sports to send me a Halloween Howler 150 press release that will never come...

* Time and again I'm asked the same question: Why do the northern drivers all travel south for PASS races, but the southern guys never come up here? The answer is an unpleasant one.

Southern Super Late Model teams have a nasty reputation for being unwilling to travel to any event in which A) they don't think they are the prohibitive favorite to win and B) aren't guaranteed a non-handicapped starting grid.

That's it. That's the reasoning. They're so busy swimming in the NASCAR Kool-Aid that surrounds them, believing anything short of a win at the local level will kill their NASCAR aspirations faster than a blown engine, they're not willing to risk much.

* With the southern guys hospitably stepping aside, Cassius Clark won the Halloween Howler at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway on Saturday. A disappointing year for Clark has been salvaged over the late part of the season. Faulty scales robbed him of a 100-lap win at Wiscasset Raceway last month, but he's won both the PASS North season finale at White Mountain on Oct. 14 and now the Howler.

Yeah, Cassius is good. And if people knew the shoestring budget his team worked with, they'd be even more impressed than they already are.

Top-5 from that Howler: 1. Cassius Clark, 2. Ben Rowe, 3. Derek Ramstrom, 4. Ryan Lawler, 5. Corey Williams.

* Want to see one of the most embarrassing things on the World Wide Web? Check out this thread on the Racin' Paper message board devoted to All-Star Speedway.

I don't know if track owner Bobby McArthur does or does not pay what he owes racers, and frankly, it's a discusssion I don't really want to have. But for him to make the posts he does under the screen name of "SHOWSTOPPA" is one of the most disgusting things you'll find in the world of short-track racing. This is the man running a NASCAR-sanctioned short track threatening his teams openly.

Yeah, that's good P.R. I wonder how many cars you'll see in the feature lineups next season -- assuming All-Star lasts that long...

* Game 4: Red Sox 4, Rockies 3. (Sox win World Series, 4-0.)

Yeah, it was THAT good. And, yeah, I haven't gotten sick of watching the post-game coverage yet. Probably never will.