Police Action

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From the man who threatened to pick up a race track in Charlotte and move it comes the latest speedway-local community battle.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. head Bruton Smith is at odds with Loudon, New Hampshire officials over the cost of having police and fire protection for this weekend's annual June NASCAR weekend at the New England track.

Loudon police Chief Bob Fiske has lowered the budget offered for the services this weekend to $134,000. Smith however has said the highest he's willing to go is $65,000.

But bartering is not something the Loudon officials seem to be interested in so the "take it or leave it" standoff has many wondering if this will mean the end to New Hampshire's spot on the summer Cup calendar.

Smith has made it very clear he intends to bring a date to newly-acquired Kentucky Speedway as well as a second race to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We all know those events have to come from an existing property. Atlanta Motor Speedway is the likely choice for one harvest and now New Hampshire has moved into the crosshairs as the second.

Whether or not Smith is using this police and fire hassle as an opportunity to find a scapegoat and allow him to remove a Loudon date and have someone to blame all in one fell swoop only the SMI honcho knows for sure. But it sure appears that way and it wouldn't be the first time Smith has threatened a municipality with taking his ball and going home.

He is fresh off a rather contentious battle with Concord, North Carolina over noise regulations and other legal issues in and around Charlotte Motor Speedway. At one time during the tussle, Smith vowed to tear down the track and construct a new one in another county.

That of course did not come to be and although it might have been just a strong bluff, those who have played poker in the game of business with Smith know he doesn't often blink.

It does seem ludicrous that the difference of less than $100,000 would cause SMI to pull up stakes for a weekend out of Loudon but it would provide Smith with the perfect opportunity to strip that date and point the finger at someone other than himself of robbing New England race fans of a Cup event - one that has been supported fully since New Hampshire joined NASCAR's senior circuit in 1993.

But the simple facts are that 99,000 at New Hampshire pales to 140,000 in Las Vegas and those extra 40,000-plus tickets sold doesn't include the added concession, parking and other revenues SMI stands to net with such a move.

This weekend's announcement that the IZOD Indy Car Series will come to New Hampshire on July 31, 2011 is also viewed by many as another piece of the puzzle and as a replacement for the disappearing June Cup weekend. Make no mistake, an IRL race does not generate anywhere near the revenue of a Sprint Cup date. But overhead and sanctioning costs are also significantly lower.

Despite having only Indy Cars and the September Chase kick off still on the NHIS schedule, the track seems suited to remain profitable even with one less NASCAR weekend on the slate.

The smart money says this is a done deal and all the bluster over the fire and police protection costs is simply a smoke screen for what will eventually be a major shift of the Sprint Cup Series schedule to include Kentucky and a second Vegas trip along with a relocated date out of the ISC portfolio to Kansas.

The clock is ticking to get this all done for 2011.

But I would prepare for simply one NASCAR weekend in New England after this season.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2010

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