From the Kentucky Speedway
SPARTA, Ky. (January 2006) A federal judge in December ruled that the Kentucky Speedway's multi-million-dollar lawsuit against NASCAR will remain in the state instead of granting NASCAR's motion to move the case to Florida, where the auto racing organization is based.
U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman denied NASCAR's request to move the case. Instead, it will be heard where it was filed, in U.S. District Court in Covington, Ky.
"There exists a strong public interest in having this controversy adjudicated locally," Bertelsman wrote in the eight-page order. "Particularly, the court concludes that the great public interest in having this dispute decided locally tips the balance in favor of retaining the case."
Cincinnati lawyer Stan Chesley, who leads a team representing the speedway that includes anti-trust expert Steve Sussman of Houston and Mark Guilfoyle of Edgewood, said he was "very pleased" with the ruling.
Bertelsman scheduled the next hearing for Jan. 12. At that hearing NASCAR will ask the judge to dismiss the lawsuit, according to NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston.
NASCAR had argued that information contained in contracts it has signed with the speedway, where NASCAR does run truck and Busch series races but not Nextel Cup, stipulate that the case should be moved to Florida.
Bertelsman concluded there are more compelling reasons to keep the case in Covington than contract clauses.
"Apparently, a Nextel race is the World Series or Super Bowl of that sport," he said. "Many members of the local community are fans who have a great interest in having such a race occur locally.
"Obviously, there would be a great shot in the arm to the local economy that would also result, as well as an enhancement to the community prestige," he said.
Bertelsman pointed out that NASCAR has admitted that "Kentucky has certain investments or commitments which would be enhanced by having a Nextel race" at the speedway in Gallatin County.
The state has invested millions of dollars in tax breaks and new roads and improvements to Interstate 71.
Operators of the 5-year-old speedway have gone to court in an effort to land a Nextel Cup race.
Kentucky Speedway filed suit July 13 against NASCAR and ISC, both of which are controlled by the France family, alleging the companies violated federal antitrust laws by illegally restricting the awarding of Nextel Cup races and attempting to "monopolize the market for hosting premium stock car racing events."
"The (speedway's) complaint alleges that, as a result of antitrust violations, including an unlawful conspiracy between the defendants, plaintiff has been wrongfully denied a Nextel Cup Series race," according to court records.
The speedway is seeking $400 million in damages.