CONCORD, N.C. - The city of Charlotte is still feeling the sting of losing its National Basketball Association team to New Orleans.
Now it plans to spend $1 million to make sure it doesn't lose The Winston, stock car racing's all-star race.
Only $220,000 is budgeted by local government to promote the all-star race, which has been staged at the Lowe's Motor Speedway for 17 of its 18 years. Officials now want to push their promotional commitment to more than $1 million, according to the Charlotte Observer.
That's a small investment for a race that is worth about $75 million to the local economy, according to a study at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
"Other cities are envious of what we have and they're looking to pick our pocket," said Carroll Gray, president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.
The race's sponsor, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., and NASCAR both said they may explore a plan to move the all-star race to other venues, much like the routine of the NBA and Major League Baseball for their all-star events.
Charlotte plans to put on a promotional blitz to keep the race in its own back yard, considered the heart of stock car country.
Drivers have rallied around Charlotte because there are only three open dates on a schedule that starts in early February, and doesn't end until four days before Thanksgiving. By racing at the Lowe's Motor Speedway, the majority of teams won't have to travel since about 90 percent of the teams are based within 90 minutes of Charlotte.
HAMMERGATE: The rivalry between Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse and The Home Depot has grown to involve six speedways and one driver's souvenirs.
Lowe's has a $35 million, 10-year agreement with Speedway Motorsports Inc. for the naming rights at the speedway located at Concord, N.C. To keep Lowe's happy, all six raceways in the SMI family have removed souvenirs for Tony Stewart, whose sponsor is Home Depot.
All of Stewart's souvenirs have been taken off the shelves at speedways in Atlanta, Fort Worth, Tex., Las Vegas, Sears Point, Calif., Bristol, Tenn., and Concord. The raceway in Concord now is known as the Lowe's Motor Speedway.
While Stewart's souvenirs are missing from the raceway gift shops and raceway-owned souvenir trailers, Stewart's souvenirs are available at his trailer on SMI property during race week.
PIT STOPS: Joe Nemechek will take over in the UAW-Delphi Chevrolet for the rest of the season. Hendrick Motorsports released Jerry Nadeau May 8. Nemechek became available earlier this year when Haas-Carter Motorsports folded when sponsor Kmart filed for bankruptcy. ... Next week's race, the Coca-Cola 600 at the Lowe's Motor Speedway has been renamed the Coca-Cola Racing Family 600. It remains the longest stock car race on the schedule.
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