RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - One of the country's largest auto racing track operators can't claim local officials reneged on an offer of $80 million in tax breaks because there was never a binding contract for the money in exchange for building a new drag strip and making upgrades at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a court ruled Tuesday.
A three-judge state Court of Appeals panel ruled unanimously that Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Charlotte Motor Speedway have no grounds to revive a lawsuit against Cabarrus County, where both companies are based. The ruling means the companies can't appeal further to the state Supreme Court, though the high court could still consider the case at its discretion.
Race track magnate Bruton Smith, who heads both companies, had threatened in 2007 to move the 135,000-seat speedway and build a new drag strip somewhere other than the Charlotte region without the tax breaks.
The 30,000-seat, four-lane zMax Dragway officially opened Aug. 20, 2008, just three weeks before its first scheduled race. But it wasn't until the following day that a proposed contract for tax breaks was put in writing. The track operator rejected those terms.
The companies argued they invested millions into the drag strip construction based on a Nov. 21, 2007, letter from the chairman of the county commissioners and the mayor of Concord, the city where the speedway is located. The officials said in their letter that they were committed to providing $80 million for road, pedestrian, utility and noise-reduction projects.
But that didn't equal an enforceable contract, the court said.
It's not clear if SMI - which owns the track and seven others in Georgia, Tennessee, California, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas - has yet seen any of the $80 million announced in 2007. Spokesmen for the county and the speedway did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Around the time the appeals court was hearing the case this spring, Smith threatened to move the top-level NASCAR Sprint Cup race staged at the Charlotte Motor Speedway to another SMI track in Las Vegas. This month's Bank of America 500 and two other major races held at the speedway generate a local economic impact of about $420?million, the Charlotte Sports Commission said in a report last year.
Smith later backtracked, saying he spoke in anger. The speedway and the county are waging a separate fight over the property's tax value, which the county estimated at some $200 million more than the company.
SMI reported profits of $42 million in 2012 on revenues of $490 million. The company said it lost $69 million in the first half of this year after hefty-one time charges and poor weather that reduced attendance at some of its races.
---
Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio.

Recent NASCAR Discussions

NASCAR Odds

Driver Odds
Odds to Win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup 2017 Championship
Kyle Busch #18 +600
Jimmie Johnson #48 +600
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. #88 +700
Joey Logano #22 +800
Brad Keselowski #2 +900

Nascar Top Stories

Thumbnail Daytona 500 Picks Which driver will open the 2017 NASCAR season with a win in the biggest race, the Daytona 500? Here’s our picks for...
Thumbnail NextEra Energy Resources 250 Picks The NASCAR Camping World Truck Seriesgets its season underway tonight with the NextEra Energy Resources...
Thumbnail Powershares QQQ 300 Odds The NASCAR Xfinity Series kicks off its season this weekend with the running of the Powershares QQQ 300. Here is a...
Thumbnail NASCAR Can-Am Duel #2 Betting Odds Even though it’s his first official NASCAR start since July of 2016, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is still favored by oddsmakers to win tomorrow night’s NASCAR Can-Am Duel #2...
Thumbnail Keselowski favored in Can-Am Duel #1 Brad Keselowski - one of the strongest cars in the Advanced Auto Parts Clash at Daytona is Favored in tomorrow’s NASCAR Can-Am Duel #1 from Daytona International...