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Kentucky Speedway lawsuit marches on

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By Paul Gable

Current Kentucky Speedway owner Jerry Carroll and future owner Bruton Smith, both agree that the speedway in Sparta deserves a NASCAR Sprint Cup series race in 2009.

The question of how to accomplish that goal yields different answers, as Carroll announced June 14 that he is still pushing ahead with his lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. despite Smith's Speedway Motorsports, Inc. purchase of Kentucky Speedway in May.

In 2005, Carroll, growing tired of not having been awarded a cup series race, filed an antitrust lawsuit, alleging NASCAR and ISC of violating antitrust laws by restricting which tracks host cup races and trying to "monopolize the market for hosting premium stock car racing events."

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.

U.S. District Court Judge William Bertelsman threw the $400 million lawsuit out of court on Jan. 7 in a written ruling from U.S. District Court in Covington. Despite the decision, Kentucky Speedway filed an appeal that is continuing.

Bertlesman said the Speedway failed to make its case and that a producer is free under current antitrust laws to select its distributors.

Carroll said he and his investors are "not budging from the lawsuit."

"We always said it wasn't about the money and it wasn't about the race in a way, it was about a level playing field," Carroll told a group of reporters prior to June 14's Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo at Kentucky Speedway.

While he is pleased to have purchased Kentucky Speedway, Smith is not pleased about the black cloud the lawsuit has over the speedway, especially as far as NASCAR and the 2009 series race schedule is concerned.

"I think Jerry already knows that's a problem," Smith said. "NASCAR wants that to go away. Jerry knows that. I know that. But I'm not going to be used to make that go away. It's up to the current ownership."

Carroll said Smith bought the speedway knowing, the lawsuit was in place.

"That was mentioned many times. We didn't anticipate anything happening in 2009. We thought it would be another deal he (Smith) was going to work his magic and do something. Again NASCAR does what they do," Carroll said of the lawsuit.

As for whether or not the lawsuit could end the deal Carroll and Smith agreed upon prior to SMI taking over ownership on Oct. 1, 2008, Carroll said he doesn't believe the lawsuit will interfere with the closing.

"It's up to him (Smith) to work out those situations because we are not budging from the lawsuit. It's important to us.

What if Smith approached Carroll and said the only way Kentucky Speedway would host a race is if the lawsuit was dropped?

"That's his problem," Carroll said. "We're not not going to have the lawsuit. It's the only opportunity we have, and we said we were going out with the lawsuit to have an even playing field. If we left because somebody came in, it wouldn't be fair to all the time weve put in. We still believe we have a good lawsuit. We're going to go after this thing and play every possible card we can play. If we win fine, if we lose, we at least made an attempt. We're not going to change."