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NASCAR Duopoly

2008 March 27
by Skip Sauer

From Jim Pedley in the Kansas City Star:

Time was, all NASCAR races were held on tracks owned by families or small-time promoters. But as the sport grew, and its economics mutated, track ownership began going corporate.

The two corporations that dominate the scene today — International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc. — were at one time mom-and-poppish themselves. But both started buying up other family-owned tracks and today, they have attained possession of all but three tracks on which the Sprint Cup series races.

Higher concentration of ownership appears to have efficiencies:

This week’s race is at Martinsville Speedway. On the schedule since 1949, the track is a half-mile oval located in the rural back country of Virginia. It had been in the hands of the family of H. Clay Earles until 2004. Then it was sold to ISC.

Martinsville is a favorite of purists who love its size, layout, racing, history and hot dogs.

Clay Campbell, Earles’ grandson, says his family, too, is happy with where it is.

“I think the ownership doesn’t matter as much as your values and the way you approach the families that come to your event,” Campbell said. “This track is not now owned by my family. We still have the same values, and we still approach things the way we did pre-ISC.”

Campbell, who serves as president of Martinsville Speedway, said he has a list of upgrades he would like to see made at the track. The list is lengthy and also costly. They include fan amenities and new safety features for drivers.

Campbell said the upgrades could only be made with corporate backing.

“You know,” Campbell said, “being president of this place before ISC and now, it’s much better now because if I have a problem, if I have an issue, all I’ve got to do is pick up a phone because nine times out of 10 somebody in this company has already experienced it and I can get an answer and I can get it resolved. So I think it’s much better now, and I think it’s the way to go, definitely.”

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