Smith Calls On NASCAR To Move Season-Ending Race - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Smith Calls On NASCAR To Move Season-Ending Race

Posted: Updated:

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) -- Bruton Smith wants NASCAR to yank its final race of the season out of south Florida.

Never at a loss for words, the track owner said the championship-deciding race should return to Atlanta Motor Speedway, where it was held through 2001, or Las Vegas Motor Speedway - both facilities he owns.

"Why have the last race of the season at some Godforsaken area just north of Cuba?" he said, referring to Homestead Miami Speedway.

Atlanta's fall race shifted a few weeks earlier in 2002 and this year it moves to an even earlier spot on Labor Day weekend. While plagued by weather issues when held in November, Smith said his track would still be a better location for NASCAR to hold the final race than Homestead.

"If they'll give us our date back," he said, "we'll fill up the place again and do something major for the sport. If that doesn't work, put it in Las Vegas. We'll add more seats - and sell out every one of them."

Smith, who controls Atlanta and six other Sprint Cup tracks through Speedway Motorsports Inc., has long feuded with NASCAR and a related company that owns a majority of the facilities used on the circuit, including Homestead.

"They're not doing anything for the sport," Smith said of the track south of Miami. "Wouldn't it be better off holding the race where you can draw 175,000 people."

NASCAR officials shrugged off Smith's complaints and disputed his claims that attendance was poor, saying last year's race was sold out.

"We think Homestead-Miami is an excellent venue for NASCAR's Ford Championship Weekend," Jim Hunter, the vice president of corporate communications, said in a statement.

Jeff Gordon, the current Sprint Cup points leader, also defended the Florida track as a worthy site to crown a champion.

"I love what Bruton brings to the sport," Gordon told reporters. "He always gives you good material to write ... and he builds beautiful facilities. But I do think Homestead is the place to wind down our season. I love that track. I love the area.

"Sure, it's a little more challenging to get our core fans to travel all that way to south Florida. It's not in the heart of where our core fans are. But there's still a tremendous amount of fans who love the sport down there. And they do a tremendous job promoting and marketing the whole championship weekend. It's a fun weekend for me."

Smith also renewed his call for NASCAR to hold a Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, which he purchased last year. IndyCar and Nationwide Series events have been held there, but NASCAR has balked at scheduling a Cup race.

On another matter, Smith said NASCAR should not allow television networks to dictate the start times of races, pointing to a late-afternoon start for the season-opening Daytona 500. Rain halted the sport's biggest race before it could be completed.

"They should have started that race no later than 2 o'clock," Smith said. "If they had done that, they would have had time for the whole race. We've got to think about the race fans first, then the fans."

---

SPUTTER THOSE ENGINES: Everyone will be listening to their engines a little closer than usual in Atlanta.

A rash of motor problems plagued some of the top contenders last weekend at Las Vegas, putting the focus on durability for Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500.

"All the manufacturers have been bit by the bug," Bobby Labonte said. "It seems like everybody caught a sinus infection."

At Las Vegas, five Toyota teams had to change motors for various reasons leading up to the race. Matt Kenseth, trying to become the first driver to win the first three events of the season, ran into problems during warmups and lasted only six laps once the green flag dropped in his Ford.

David Ragan and Carl Edwards, both driving Fords, also had engines fail. So did Mark Martin, whose Chevrolet went out for the second week in a row.

Several drivers said the problems at Vegas could possibly be traced to the Goodyear tires. Not that there was anything wrong with them - quite the opposite.

"Goodyear should be congratulated for the tire it brought last week," said Kurt Busch, who had his own mechanical problems. "We got to RPMs we didn't expect to get to. I think we were running about 9,800. That's a lot of RPMs for an engine. I don't think you saw more than 9,600 last year. It caught some teams off guard."

Jeff Burton also pointed to new testing rules that were imposed by NASCAR to cut costs in tough economic times.

"A lot of times before, stuff was going to break and it didn't break because teams were able to change things based on practice sessions and test sessions," he said. "That's not available to us today. Whether testing would have caught them or not, I don't know. But there's situations where it probably would have."

The cars are not expected to have the same grip on the Atlanta track, which caused all sorts of problems for Goodyear at last year's fall race. That should reduce the stress on the engines.

---

COMPUTER MAN: Bobby Labonte made a pit stop Friday morning, stopping off at a local elementary school in his No. 96 Ford.

Labonte visited Cotton Indian Elementary to make a donation of new computers as part of the Safe Search Schools program, which is designed to steer children away from offensive or potentially harmful sites when surfing the Internet.

The program was set up by Ask.com, Labonte's primary sponsor.

"We're trying to help raise awareness of Internet safety," Labonte said. "I got a chance to meet with a bunch of fifth-graders, so they were all smarter than I am, I know that. As a dad with two kids at home and a big computer sitting there, I know how important it is to have Internet safety at home."

Labonte, who won his Cup championship nine years ago, conceded that many of the students probably weren't as familiar with him as they are with younger stars such as Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch.

"Thank goodness their parents told them before I got there," Labonte quipped, "or they wouldn't have known who I was."

© 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2017 Midwest Television, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.