The Associated Press
CINCINNATI (AP) - The former owners of the Kentucky Speedway contend that NASCAR has unfair control over which tracks get its top races and on Thursday asked an appeals court to revive their antitrust lawsuit against the racing body and a sister company that promotes races and operates tracks.
The lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. was filed in 2005 by the speedway's original owners. The ex-owners said they couldn't get a top-tier stock car race because of a conspiracy against independent tracks.
A federal judge last year rejected the suit, and three 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges heard arguments Thursday on whether to overturn that decision.
"This is a classic case of anticompetitive illegal conduct," said Charles Rule, a prominent antitrust attorney representing the original owners.
But NASCAR attorney David Boies, also a veteran antitrust litigator, called the lawsuit a case of impatience to land a valuable Sprint Cup race.
"They want one. Everyone wants one," Boies said.
Boies noted that the speedway has hosted other NASCAR series races since opening in 2000 and was in effect saying: "We want it all and we want it now."
The judges repeatedly questioned Rule, who headed the Justice Department's antitrust division during the Reagan administration, on his contentions.
Judge Ronald Lee Gilman asked whether a premium race was "in the eye of the beholder." Rule replied that NASCAR's top-tier races draw the most television revenue, fan interest and other benefits to tracks, and are the "major league" of racing.
The speedway some 40 miles south of Cincinnati now has new ownership that wants the lawsuit resolved. But the plaintiffs say there are important legal issues that should go to trial and are seeking hundreds of millions in damages.
NASCAR has said the lawsuit must end before Kentucky Speedway could get a Sprint Cup race. NASCAR officials say there are limits to how many premium races they can run in a year - the Sprint Cup series currently has 36 points competition races and two "All-Star" races.
"Like other sports -the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA - NASCAR has the right to create its schedule and host events where it wants to," said NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston, who sat in on the courtroom arguments Thursday.
The judges likely will take months to rule.
On the Net:
6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov