Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Stock Car Racing Ownership Changing with National Success

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Stock Car Racing Ownership Changing with National Success

Article excerpt

SONOMA, Calif. -- One of the trademarks of the early years of stock car racing was its independence.

Most drivers owned their teams and the tracks they drove on were individually owned. It also was a regional sport, with little national following.

The sport now has grown from dusty tracks in the rural south to national television audiences measured in the millions. Only a handful of drivers own their teams and Nascar races are now held on tracks holding more than 100,000 fans, some in air-conditioned luxury boxes where they eat shrimp and drink white wine. "I don't think there is another sport in the United States that can draw 100,000 fans or more on the kind of consistent basis Nascar can," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., one of the companies leading the transformation of the sport. Speedway Motorsports, along with International Speedway Corp. and Penske Motorsports Inc., are taking the independent steps of today that are shaping the future of stock car racing. Concord, N.C.-based Speedway Motorsports in the past year has added a fabled track in Bristol, Tenn., the Texas Motor Speedway which opened Sunday in the Metroplex and Sears Point Raceway in the California wine country's Sonoma Valley. The company already owns super speedways in Charlotte and Atlanta. The company also took the untraditional step of heading north to Wall Street to convince investors that it was worthy of interest as a $68 million initial stock sale in 1995. "What we saw was that Nascar was heading into a strong power curve," Wheeler said, similar to the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. "We felt there would be a 10-12-year period of strong growth and we needed the capital to take advantage of it." The initial offering went off at $18 a share. The stock now trades around 24. Adjusting for a 2-for-1 split, the price more than doubled since the initial public offering. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 62 percent since Speedway Motorsports stock went on sale in February 1995. The company's net income during 1996 rose 36 percent from $19.5 million, or 53 cents a share, to $26. …

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