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Dover speedway owner to be bought

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Tens of thousands of fans attended the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway on Oct. 6, 2019, in Dover. | PHOTO COURTESY OF NASCAR/MATT SULLIVAN/GETTY

DOVER – Dover Motorsports, the parent company of Dover International Speedway and one of the last independent owners of a top-tier NASCAR racetrack, announced Monday night that it has reached a sale agreement with Speedway Motorsports, one of the sport’s two biggest track owners and operators.

The deal means that control of Delaware’s crown jewel sports facility, the track known by fans as “the Monster Mile,” will no longer be local.

Speedway Motorsports, the North Carolina-based public company that owns and operates famed tracks like Texas Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway, will pay Dover Motorsports shareholders $3.61 per share, totaling an acquisition of about $131.5 million. That value represents a 58.3% premium to the closing stock price on Nov. 8.

The holders of approximately 57.5% of the total aggregate shares of Dover Motorsports, or 92% of the voting power, have agreed to tender their shares and support the agreement, according to the two companies. The largest shareholders of Dover Motorsports include Henry Tippie and the Rollins family, who found their fortune through the Rollins company, a pest control giant that owns Orkin and other brands.

The boards of both have already approved the deal. The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2021.

“While this marks the end of our 52 years as an independent operator in NASCAR, our future advancement is best secured by joining forces with a major player in the sport and we are happy to be able to become part of the Speedway Motorsports family and to be able to work with Marcus Smith as NASCAR embraces its future,” Dover Motorsports President and CEO Denis McGlynn said in a statement announcing the deal.

Both companies declined further comment on the deal until it closes.

Dover International Speedway has been hosting races since 1969, and two race weekends a year since 1971, but 2021 marked a change: it moved its fall race to the Nashville Superspeedway, its other racetrack.

McGlynn reported that Dover Motorsports was in discussions with NASCAR for some time about the possibility of the move, but the plan was only solidified in 2020. The company reportedly invested upward of $10 million in updating the track in preparation for its NASCAR return this past June.

The move was predicated by the fact that attendance has been falling at Dover, which convinced company officials to spend about $1.5 million in 2019 to decrease its seating capacity from 83,000 to 54,000. At its height a decade ago, the racetrack had a capacity of about 135,000.

Despite falling attendance, the races’ TV broadcast rights have become more valuable every year, totaling $37 million in 2021, according to securities filings. Aside from the NASCAR races, Dover International Speedway is also home to the annual Firefly Music Festival, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary in September 2022.

Meanwhile, Speedway Motorsports is seeking to control as many top-tier tracks as it can, especially after its largest competitor, International Speedway Corp., was bought out by NASCAR itself in 2019 for $2 billion. ISC controls some of the most famous tracks in stock car racing, including Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Darlington Raceway, Martinsville Speedway and Watkins Glen International.

This deal is not the first time that Speedway Motorsports and Dover Motorsports have engaged in acquisition negotiations. In 2007, a deal that would have sold Dover to an alliance between ICS and Speedway Motorsports fell apart after the protests of an activist investor.

Editor’s note: This story originally compared attendance revenue between 2008 and 2019, however, it was not a fair comparison as the beginning year’s reported total included four racetracks versus 2019’s one. That reference has been removed.

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