Mama always said that when a bully finds out you can be intimidated or pushed around, the bullying would continue until something or someone stops it.
Bruton Smith, owner of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, has been bullying officials in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg Counties for years. Like the emperor with no clothes, a growing number recognize the tactics for what they are, but won’t say so publicly.
The latest threat comes as Smith suggested he might move the “Bank of America 500” race from Charlotte Motor Speedway this October and relocate it to Las Vegas. Why? Smith doesn’t like the 294 million dollar property tax assessment Cabarrus County has placed on his property, even though he brags about spending 100 million dollars upgrading the facility in recent years. He has to pay 2.1 million dollars each year in property taxes. Said Smith, “…It’s frustrating to think about the future and consider that the local government doesn’t share the same excitement about (the track) that our fans do. The Cabarrus County politicians may say nice things to the media, but raising taxes does not support the tourism business, the area economy or companies trying to grow.”
So Bruton the Bully is threatening to move the race if his taxes aren’t lowered. It’s not the first time he has made such threats. In 2007, he wanted to build a drag strip adjacent to the speedway and Cabarrus County officials were not favorably disposed. He threatened them and not only did they approve the drag strip but gave him 80 million dollars in tax incentives and named a road “Bruton Smith Boulevard.”
Like mama said the intimidation will continue until someone stops it and you can be sure that as long as his threats get the results he wants Bruton Smith won’t stop them.
Smith himself admits he has a huge personal investment in Charotte Motor Speedway. He has maintenance, upkeep and taxes to pay regardless of how many times a year it is used. Bank of America should not be quite so willing to pay sponsorship dollars to a race in Las Vegas as they are in their home city of Charlotte. NASCAR has a say in where races are staged. The NASCAR museum and hall of fame are in Charlotte. FOX SPORTs is locating their headquarters in Charlotte and many of the major racing teams have their headquarters in the vicinity. The fan base in the Carolina’s region is the strongest in the nation.
Bruton Smith is a businessman…and a pretty smart one from what we’ve gathered. There’s no question that Charlotte Motor Speedway has been both an economic and sports boom to the region, but also to Smith’s business. The region survived Canon Mills’ demise, Philip Morris’s closure and can survive if Smith wants to take his ball and play somewhere else.
Local officials need to ask themselves where they will draw the line on Bruton Smith’s tactics.