February 21, 2003
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- What was a whisper in NASCAR circles is now a shout: North Carolina Speedway is in danger of losing one of its Winston Cup races.
Since NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. said last month that the sanctioning body wants to change its schedule in 2004, the tiny 1.017-mile high-banked oval known as "The Rock" has been on the endangered species list.
Unable to sell out a race since expanding to 60,113 seats in 1999, the track is a prime target to lose a date to a larger market.
Speedway general manager Chris Browning won't think about that possibility as the track prepares to host Sunday's Subway 400. But once the weekend is over, Browning knows Rockingham's fate could be decided.
The track's other event is in November.
"I'd expect that after the weekend, (realignment) will start to become more of an issue," he said.
North Carolina Speedway is in the middle of a crowded market; Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., are short drives away.
Those likely to benefit if Rockingham loses a race: new tracks in Fontana, Calif., Kansas City, Kan., and suburban Chicago. All, along with Rockingham, fall under International Speedway Corporation, which the France family owns.
"From a facility standpoint, we're right up there with anyone except those brand new tracks," Browning said. " ... We're not in a major market, and you can't pick the track up and take it to one."
FORMULA ONE: Williams and McLaren are taking world governing body FIA to arbitration over new rules.
Both teams said they would follow the regulations this season, which starts March9 in Melbourne, Australia.
McLaren and Williams are upset over losing their advantage in high-priced technology, such as telemetry.
The matter will go before the International Chamber of Commerce in Lausanne, Switzerland, and will take about a year for a decision, McLaren team principal Ron Dennis said.