Sorensen: What would NASCAR's Bruton Smith be like as Panthers' owner?

tsorensen@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 13, 2013 

NASCAR Charlotte Auto Racing

Lowe's Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith talks about the 50th anniversary of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Coca-Cola 600 auto race during a news conference in Concord, N.C., Saturday, May 23, 2009. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)


Bruton Smith told WBT-AM’s Keith Larson on Tuesday that he’d buy the Carolina Panthers if the “price is right.” He also said he would not ask for public money and would keep the team in Charlotte.

In 2007 Bruton, who owns Charlotte Motor Speedway and many other things, threatened to move the race track if he didn’t get what he wanted when he wanted it. He was serious. He told me so.

I have no idea if Bruton is serious about buying the Panthers. But I can see why he would be. NASCAR’s attendance and television ratings are in perpetual free fall. The NFL is the most successful enterprise in the history of U.S. sports.

Bruton would have to adjust. NFL rules are written in ink, NASCAR rules in sand.

But the showmanship and improvisation that characterize Bruton’s race tracks could work at Bank of America Stadium.

The first change: All fans would be allowed to remove their shirts, and some would be encouraged to.

Imagine the pre-game show. Before Charlotte races I have witnessed a flaming bus jumping over outhouses, or maybe a bus jumping over flaming outhouses. I have seen simulated race-track wars in which the good guys always win. Panthers safety Haruki Nakamura plays so far behind the line of scrimmage that he could defend freedom and make Bank of America Stadium safe for democracy by lining up in the end zone.

One afternoon in the speedway infield I saw a man shot out of a cannon, and he enjoyed the ride. The first Panther shot out of a cannon should be reserve quarterback Jimmy Clausen. The inactive list is boring. Getting shot out of a cannon is not.

Who has the biggest scoreboard in the NFL? You think the Dallas Cowboys do? Not anymore.

The Panthers would be the only team in the league whose players have to pass drug tests and inspection.

Officials will throw flags and wave them.

Nobody capitalizes on commercialism like NASCAR. They sold space on cars and on uniforms and, long before the NFL caught on, they sold the name of the track.

Steve Smith – no relation to Bruton – would still be 89. He’d also be whoever wanted to sponsor him.

The Havoline Bud Light Wrangler Lowe’s Stanley Tools NAPA AARP wide receiver splits wide.

After every victory, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton would slip into Victory Lane to thank his offensive line, the boys in the shop and each and every one of his sponsors. To get them all in, of course, a winning streak would be required.

Love to see the campers pull onto Mint Street four days before the game. Love to walk into the infield and by Sunday know everybody by name. No more funnel cake for me, thanks.

The debates would continue, but the names would change. At the speedway, it’s Ford versus Chevrolet. At the stadium, it’s BMW versus Mercedes.

The Panthers have had two Kings – tight end Jeff and defensive end Shawn. One senses there would be a third.

I don’t know how Bruton will pull off qualifying.

But he’ll find a way.

And if you don’t like it?

He’ll move the team to Indian Trail.

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