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Successful “Battle at Bristol” has SMI looking to host more football games

Virginia Tech v Tennessee

BRISTOL, TN - SEPTEMBER 10: Defensive end Derek Barnett #9 and defensive back Justin Martin #8 of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrate with the trophy following their victory against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 10, 2016 in Bristol, Tennessee. Tennessee defeated Virginia Tech 45-24. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)

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After producing the largest crowd in NCAA football history with the “Battle at Bristol” on Sept. 9, Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith said the company is hopeful of hosting future games.

Making it happen is a work in progress Smith said on SMI’s third quarter earnings call with investor analysts Wednesday morning.

“We’re certainly working on that,” Smith said. “We’re pleased with the results of the game. There’s a process, it’s not a simple thing to put together, but we’re definitely working on that and have been working on that even beginning before the game in September. We’re not ready to announce a schedule at this point but we’re certainly working to that goal.”

The game produced a football attendance record of 156,990 fans, which broke the previous record of 115,109 in 2013 for the Notre Dame - Michigan game. The speedway can hold approximately 160,000 fans on a race weekend.

Bill Brooks, SMI vice chairman and chief financial officer, said the game brought in $5-6 million in gross profit.

With tracks in markets like Atlanta, Charlotte, and Las Vegas, among other locales, Smith believes there is value in using SMI racetracks for events other than racing. Since 2011, Las Vegas Motor Speedway has hosted the Electric Daisy Carnival, one of the biggest electric dance music festivals in the world.

Smith said the “Battle at Bristol” football game between the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech showed what is possible at a speedway.

While holding a football game at racetrack helps bring in additional money due to being able to host more fans, Smith believes it has to go beyond numbers.

“If you go back maybe 10 years when we really put a lot of effort into trying to put together this game, the timing just wasn’t right,” Smith said. “There weren’t any, what we would call non-traditional venue games being played. But since then you’ve seen things like in the NHL Winter Classic, or in NCAA basketball there is the Carrier Classic every year, and these non-traditional site games have developed some really significant events that no matter if you’re an athletic director or an alumni of the particular school, the events are special and not only is it a great entertainment event but also a great recruiting event for the schools.

“The money is part of it but certainly, not the only part of it. If it were just about the money it really couldn’t be sustainable, it’s got to be a bigger factor than that. The recruiting element, the excitement and specialness of the event all play into why schools would want to be a part of something like that.”

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