NASCAR plans to purchase International Speedway Corporation, which owns 12 active NASCAR tracks, including Martinsville Speedway.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that NASCAR is buying ISC in a deal worth about $2 billion. NASCAR is calling the purchase “a merger” of the two companies.
Along with Martinsville, ISC owns Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Speedway, Richmond Raceway, and Homestead-Miami, as well as nine others currently on the circuit.
Officials at Martinsville Speedway had no comment on the purchase as of Wednesday afternoon and referred to information contained in a press release.
NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. started ISC, and several members of the France family are on its board of directors, as well as still in leadership roles in NASCAR.
Lesa France Kennedy is the current CEO of ISC, and she is also the vice chair of NASCAR.
A statement released by NASCAR and the France family said the league is “pleased with the progress” of the merger.
“We are pleased with the progress that the negotiation and execution of the merger agreement between NASCAR and ISC represents,” the statement read. “While important regulatory and shareholder approval processes remain, we look forward to the successful final resolution of this matter and continuing our work to grow this sport and deliver great racing experiences for our fans everywhere. With a strong vision for the future, the France family’s commitment to NASCAR and the larger motorsports industry has never been greater.”
The deal for ISC comes after reports last year suggested the France family was considering selling NASCAR, reports that have not been addressed by the family. NASCAR began acquiring the remaining public stock in ISC in late 2018, and layoffs in the company began early this year.
Martinsville Speedway currently has 15 full-time employees, according to the track’s website.
Martinsville Speedway, which opened in 1947 and is the oldest track currently on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit, is run by President Clay Campbell, who has been president since 1988. Campbell is the grandson of H. Clay Earles, who built and ran the track for nearly four decades.
France Sr. became a partner in Martinsville Speedway in the 1950s, and Campbell told the Bulletin last year that, from then on the France and Campbell families each owned half of Martinsville Speedway.
The Speedway was acquired by ISC in 2004 for $192 million, making it the second most recent NASCAR acquisition by the company. ISC acquired Chicagoland Speedway in 2007.
At the time of the purchase, Campbell told the Bulletin he believed ISC would operate Martinsville Speedway forever.
“This track has a history that no other ISC track [in existence today] has,” Campbell told the paper in May 2004. The Bulletin reported at that time that the track had been profitable.
“You look at the bottom line,” Campbell said then.
Campbell told the Bulletin that was the reason he elected to sell the speedway to ISC was about allowing the track to continue to grow and succeed.
“We’ve been a single-car race team for a number of years, but ... multi-car teams are the most successful. With the resources that we can draw from ISC — its knowledge, manpower and experience can take us to another level,” Campbell told the Bulletin in 2004.
Martinsville, which had a weekend of racing in March, is scheduled to host NASCAR Cup and Truck Series playoff races this October, and two NASCAR weekends in 2020,
That includes Cup Series night race next May – moved from March to Mother’s Day weekend – and playoff races for all three of NASCAR’s top series – Cup, Xfinity, and Truck – in October 2020.
There also is the Valley Star 300 late-model race is in early fall.
At the time of its sale to ISC, the Speedway had added extra seating to give it a stated capacity of 63,000, as well as 25 corporate suites, high-rise grandstands, new parking lots, an access road to U.S.220/U.S. 58 Bypass, an overhead walkway from the grandstand to the parking area, an infield media center and a new scoreboard. The Speedway has not lost any NASCAR races since the ISC purchase, as it continues to still host two ever year, with plans to continue that trend in the future.
Also that was at a time when NASCAR was the second-most-watched sport on television, behind only the NFL. But, as has been the trend across the sport, dwindling numbers both in person and on TV has forced changes at tracks across the country.
Martinsville removed some seats in January 2018 as part of what Campbell called at the time “facility optimization.” Seven ISC tracks have also removed seats in recent years.
An article in January by ESPN’s Bob Pockrass stated that Martinsville currently holds 44,000 spectators, down from 55,000 in recent years. Seven ISC tracks have seen a combined 78,000-seat reductions in recent years.
The Speedway did add lights to the facility in 2017 and has added a “Sky Deck” above Turns 1 and 2, a trend for more social settings at tracks that Phoenix and Richmond also have added in recent years.
According to the AP, NASCAR could, at minimum, be seeking investors for ISC.