Speedway says it was jilted in NASCAR conspiracy
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A federal judge ordered Friday that Kentucky Speedway can move ahead with its $400 million antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR.
In a 17-page opinion, U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman rejected NASCAR's motions to dismiss the case. He also refused a request by International Speedway, which owns several NASCAR tracks, to be dropped from the lawsuit.
The case alleges NASCAR conspired with International Speedway to decide which tracks should be host to coveted Nextel Cup races. Kentucky Speedway, based in Sparta about halfway between Louisville and Cincinnati, was left out, despite better amenities than many of the sites.
Even with Bertelsman's ruling, it could be a year or longer before the case goes to trial. He set a deadline of Feb. 1, 2007, to finish "discovery" -- the process of pretrial fact gathering, including interviewing witnesses.
"We're very pleased with the decision and we're looking forward to going forward," said Stan Chesley, an attorney representing Kentucky Speedway in the case.
In arguments earlier this month, NASCAR's attorneys told the judge the track had no standing to sue because it wasn't trying to assure competition -- as antitrust law guarantees -- but to become part of a monopoly.
Chesley said Kentucky Speedway's ultimate goal is to compete directly with NASCAR.
In a written statement from NASCAR, spokesman Ramsey Poston expressed disappointment with the ruling but said the organization would "vigorously defend itself."
"NASCAR maintains that its sanctioning process is pro-competitive and has been a great benefit to the industry including fans, sponsors, drivers, teams and tracks," Poston said. "On the other hand, the Kentucky Speedway lawsuit, which is seeking a bid system, would likely provide a short-term financial windfall to NASCAR but would be disastrous to the long-term health of the sport."
Bertelsman noted courts have long been reluctant to dismiss antitrust complaints before all the facts are gathered. He said the conspiracy claims aren't frivolous and therefore should go forward.
International Speedway had argued it at least should be released from the case because it doesn't do business in Kentucky. But Kentucky Speedway pointed out it does conduct business over the Internet, and the judge agreed it falls under the court's jurisdiction.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press