Charlotte Motor Speedway Sells Name for $35 Million

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Selling the naming rights of sports venues, a practice that has become commonplace in team sports in recent years, spilled over into auto racing Tuesday.

Lowe’s Companies Inc., the nation’s second-largest home improvement retailer, agreed to pay $35 million over 10 years to have Charlotte Motor Speedway at Concord, N.C., renamed Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

“Charlotte Motor Speedway has been around since 1960, so there’s definitely going to be a period of adjustment,” said H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., the company that owns the 1.5-mile superspeedway. “But this is the way of sports today. This opens the floodgates.”


While the deal is the first of its kind in racing--a sport where drivers and their cars often look like billboards--it’s unlikely to be the last.

SMI alone operates six tracks that stage races for various stock-car and open-wheel circuits, and company officials said they expect similar naming-rights contracts to be announced in the coming months at some of their other facilities.


Al Unser Jr. withdrew from the 1999 International Race of Champions Series after his 12-year-old daughter, Cody, was hospitalized in Albuquerque because of an undisclosed illness.

Unser, a two-time IROC champion and the career leading winner in the all-star series, will be replaced by NASCAR Winston Cup star Bobby Labonte.


Ken Schrader, a regular in the Winston Cup series, beat out two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion Randy Lajoie to take the pole for the season-opening NAPA Auto Parts 300 at Daytona Beach, Fla.

Schrader got around the 2 1/2-mile Daytona International Speedway oval at 189.865 mph, relegating Lajoie’s 189.661 to the outside of the front row for Saturday’s 300-mile race.

Scott Weaver of Shelby, N.C., earned the pole for Friday’s Discount Auto Parts 200 Goody’s Dash race with a lap of 158.270 mph after the top three qualifiers had their times disallowed by NASCAR because of “improper parts.”


The Boston Red Sox, using Harvard professors Elizabeth Neumeier and Gil Vernon to present their position, won their salary arbitration case with outfielder Midre Cummings. Cummings, 27, had asked for a raise from $250,000 to $725,000. Instead, he will be paid Boston’s proposal of $450,000.

Neumeier became the first woman to handle an arbitration case.

Owners lead players, 2-0, in arbitration decisions this year. Earlier, the Montreal Expos won their case against third baseman Shane Andrews.

Shortstop Ricky Gutierrez of the Houston Astros and outfielder Michael Tucker of the Cincinnati Reds avoided a salary arbitration.

Gutierrez, who beat out Tim Bogar as the starter last season, got a one-year deal worth $2.2 million. He asked for $2.5 million and the Astros offered $1.8 million.

The Reds had offered Tucker $1.4 million. Tucker had asked for a raise from $370,000 to $1.95 million. They agreed on $1.6 million.

The St. Louis Cardinals traded former first-round draft choice Sean Lowe to the Chicago White Sox for John Ambrose in a swap of minor league right-handers.


The struggles of former top-ranked player Jim Courier continued with a first-round loss to 102nd-ranked John van Lottum of the Netherlands, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), at the Sybase Open in San Jose. Pete Sampras returned from his longest layoff since high school to defeat Galo Blanco 6-4, 6-4 in one hour. Sampras had 11 aces--at least one in each of his service games. . . . Alex Corretja, the world’s No. 2 player, failed to take advantage of five match points and lost to Australia’s Andrew Ilie, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (12-10), at the $1-million Dubai Open. . . . Amelie Cocheteux upset top-seeded Nathalie Tauziat, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5), in the opening round of the Nokia Cup indoor tournament at Prostejov, Czech Republic.


Kjetil Andre Aamodt and teammate Lasse Kjus maintained their season-long dominance in the men’s combined, finishing 1-2 in the event at the World Alpine Ski Championships at Vail, Colo.

With his second medal of these championships, Aamodt tied Marc Girardelli’s record for the most world championships and Olympic medals in a career (13).

Atlantic Coast Conferenece Commissioner John Swofford wrote a letter to Auburn Athletic Director David Housel, protesting the Southeastern Conference school’s decision to buy its way out of a Sept. 2 football game against Florida State.

In the letter, Swofford said he would “ask all of our member institutions to seriously evaluate whether it makes sense to schedule Auburn in any sport.”

Michael Preetz of Germany and Faustino Asprilla of Colombia each scored two goals and had one assist as the teams tied, 3-3, in a soccer match at Miami.

Funeral services for James “Rollo” Heyn, the long-range skipper killed last Thursday when an explosive device blew up in his hands aboard the Royal Polaris, will be Thursday at 10 a.m. at St. Agnes Catholic Church at 1145 Evergreen Street in San Diego.