Full speed ahead for Kentucky Speedway Lawsuit

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By Paul Gable

Despite the fact that Kentucky Speedway has been sold to Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc., owner of seven NASCAR Sprint Cup tracks, Kentucky Speedway's lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. continues, according to Jerry Carroll.

Kentucky Speedway Spokesman Tim Bray said the lawsuit is separate from the purchase of Kentucky Speedway.

"Mr. Carroll has said that Kentucky Speedway LLC still exists and so does the lawsuit. Both will go on," Bray said.

Ten years ago, Carroll announced plans of opening Kentucky Speedway with the idea of luring names like Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the like to Sparta for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. However, Carroll grew tired of waiting to be awarded a Cup series race, filing an antitrust lawsuit in 2005 alleging NASCAR and ISC of violating antitrust laws by restricting which tracks host Nextel (Sprint) Cup races and trying to "monopolize the market for hosting premium stock car racing events."

Recently, the speedway filed an appeal of U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsmans decision to dismiss the tracks lawsuit. As a result, NASCAR and ISC now have until June 25 to file their initial response to the appeal.

On Jan. 7, Bertelsman ruled that "after careful consideration and a thorough review of the record, and granting Speedway the benefit of the doubt on all reasonable inferences therefrom, the court concludes that Speedway has failed to make out its case. Summary judgment on both claims is therefore appropriate."

In an amended complaint filed last year, the speedway said it wanted NASCAR to develop "objective factors" for the awarding of Sprint Cup races; for the France family to give up control of either ISC (a public company that operates tracks and whose majority of voting stock is owned by the Frances) or NASCAR (a private company owned by the Frances); and for ISC to sell at least eight of the 12 tracks it owns that host Sprint Cup events.

Bertelsman continued by saying that "a producer is free under current antitrust laws to select its distributors and to refuse to deal with would-be distributors, no matter how worthy or deserving they may be." He also said Kentucky Speedway was required to prove relevant markets through qualified expert testimony as part of its prima facie case and it failed after being given a sufficient opportunity.

NASCAR and ISC's lawyers have argued since the beginning that the speedway had insufficient evidence to prove NASCAR and ISC worked together with other tracks to keep the Kentucky track from obtaining a race in the Sprint Cup series.

The speedway, located between Louisville and Cincinnati in Sparta, opened in 2000 and annually hosts two NASCAR-sanctioned races, which will happen again this year despite having its lawsuit rejected.