Speedway Motorsports Inc.'s merger with Sonic Financial Corp. is not expect to rock NASCAR schedule

Charlotte Motor Speedway is part of the Speedway Motorsports Inc. stable.

NASCAR fans likely won’t see any dramatic changes at Speedway Motorsports Inc. venues once it completes its planned merger with Sonic Financial Corp. Both businesses are owned by Bruton Smith and his family, meaning the merger is mostly a matter of shifting money from one of Smith’s deep pockets to another. SMI will transition from a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange to a private entity within the Sonic network.

SMI announced at midweek that it had entered into a “definitive merger agreement” with Sonic, a process that is expected to be completed by late this year. The latest move is similar to the one recently involving Daytona Beach-based International Speedway Corp. and its down-the-hall neighbors at NASCAR. In that $2 billion agreement, ISC is selling all its outstanding shares of public stock to NASCAR. The merger will leave ISC – which is owned and controlled by the France family – as a private company under the NASCAR umbrella… also owned and controlled by the France family. 

In announcing the SMI/Sonic merger – negotiations began in late April – a company statement said the motorsports company will “continue to focus on owning and operating first-class, modern facilities in premier geographic markets, and providing our individual and corporate fans and customers with the best entertainment experience and marketing value in the motorsports industry.”

It also reassured employees that SMI has no current plans to reduce its workforce once the merger is completed. “Rather” (the statement added), “the proposed transaction will enable us to accelerate our long-term growth plan and transformation, and maintain our focus on providing the best entertainment experience and marketing value in the motorsports industry.”

While little if anything is expected to change on-track, the two mergers might attract a mega-billion-dollar buyer willing to someday negotiate with two entities – NASCAR and Sonic – who control all but three (Pocono, Dover and Indianapolis) major venues. It’s been generally agreed for years that anyone looking to buy and oversee American stock car racing would do well to deal with as few sellers as possible. This year’s two mergers are a first step in that direction.    

The Smith family’s racing empire includes Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Combined, those facilities host 12 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series races, plus the annual all-star race. In addition, SMI-owned properties host six NHRA drag races near Charlotte, Bristol, Sonoma and Las Vegas.

Currently, ISC owns and controls 12 other tracks that host 19 points-paying Cup races: Daytona International Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Kansas Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Martinsville Speedway, California Speedway, Watkins Glen International, ISM Speedway (Phoenix), Michigan International Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway and Darlington Raceway.

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