Series' purse cuts in line with times
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR is cutting by about 10 percent the race winnings it will award teams in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series this season, officials confirmed on Friday.
The reduction is part of cost-cutting measures that will alleviate some of the financial burdens on tracks that have suffered during a tough economic environment that has forced them to cut ticket prices with declining attendance.
"Last year we launched an industry-wide effort to help the sport manage budgets in this economy," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Friday. "NASCAR did the right thing to work with the tracks to reduce their costs in order to manage the economic realities.
"In return, the tracks have done a great job reducing ticket prices and enhancing the fan experience. Likewise, we worked with the teams to contain costs such as elimination of testing and other steps. This is consistent with how virtually every sport and business has adjusted to the economy over the past year."
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Lenny Santiago, director of marketing for International Speedway Corporation -- which owns the Daytona, Talladega and Darlington tracks, among others -- said the move reduces the financial stress on facilities, which should in turn lower cost for fans.
"This will help everyone -- fans, tracks, vendors and everyone in between to reduce cost," Santiago said. "We applaud NASCAR for this move."
Bruton Smith, the chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns nine tracks that host Cup, Nationwide and Truck events, also complimented NASCAR for making the cut. He doesn't believe drivers will particularly like it, "but they understand."
Smith said a much bigger issue is the way television money is allocated. Tracks pay a purse fee, along with a sanction fee, to NASCAR. A portion of the purse fee includes television money, 90 percent that goes to the track and 10 percent to NASCAR.
Out of the 90 percent, 25 is used to pay back a large portion of the purse.
Smith said the financial stress on tracks could be lessened if the $50 million awarded for the upcoming Daytona 500, promoted as NASCAR's Super Bowl, was divided more evenly.
Smith said Texas Motor Speedway, for example, gets only $11 million in television money and it is the third largest attended race of the year. He added that the track's TV money is basically the same as it was at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham before that event was moved Texas.
"There's too much money on the Daytona 500," Smith said. "It's ridiculous. Again, you've got NASCAR and ISC, one in the same. They allocated too much on that race. There should be more on other tracks."
Smith was referring to the relationship between International Speedway Corporation, which owns the other tracks that host races, and NASCAR. ISC was founded by the late Bill France Sr., also the founder of NASCAR.
There have been several lawsuits over the years citing a conflict of interest because both companies have had members of the France family in top positions. The most recent lawsuit was filed by Kentucky Speedway, now owned by SMI.
NASCAR chairman Brian France will not allow Smith to move a Cup race to Kentucky until the lawsuit is dropped or resolved.
Smith said he's made his feelings known to NASCAR about the matter of distribution of television money.
"We argue a lot," he said. "They know how we feel on this one."
Smith also argued that more of the purse, maybe as much as 50 percent, should go to race winners to put more emphasis on winning. Last year, Matt Kenseth won approximately $1.5 million for winning the Daytona 500, while the runer-up was awarded $1.1 million.
"Let's suppose you're sitting there in second and realize there's a bigger difference between first and second," Smith said. "He'll fight like the dickens to get up there and win the race.
"The fans are not involved in points. That's not what any sport is about. All sports is about is winning."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.