RICHMOND, Va. After losing three NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races in the last eight years, state lawmakers in North Carolina are willing to spend millions to maintain the state's status as the heart of stock-car racing.
The state would like to build a $50 million test track and research complex so teams based around the Charlotte, N.C., area can stay closer to home to test during their off days.
As the sport continues to expand to bigger national markets, Gov. Mike Easley and House Co-Speaker Jim Black said they're concerned the state may lose an industry that employs 10,000 people and is worth $1.5 billion to the state.
Easley wants $15 million added to this year's state budget to build a track near the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. That college, located about five miles from the Lowe's Motor Speedway considered the Mecca of stock car racing and the track would be linked to its existing motorsports engineering program.
Although more than 90 percent of the teams on the Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck series are located within an hour of Charlotte, the state lost two races at the North Wilkesboro Speedway eight years ago, and the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham lost one of its two races this year.
NASCAR limits the numbers of testing sessions at speedways currently on the Nextel Cup schedule, but tests at non-NASCAR facilities aren't restricted. Therefore, most teams test at the Kentucky Speedway or the USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Fla. The test track at Charlotte would include four different raceways so teams can get better prepared for the varying types of racetracks on the schedule, Easley said.
DEATHS LEAD TO CHANGE: A Jacksonville man charged with two counts of murder following a car accident last month has prompted the NASCAR Tech Institute in Mooresville, N.C., to adapt a policy to check the driving records of its students and to create a mandatory safe driving training program.
David Scott Shimp, 21, has been in a North Carolina jail for a month following a wreck that left two teens dead a day after he graduated from NTI.
An investigation by the Mooresville Tribune showed Shimp had been ticketed six times in and around Jacksonville before leaving to attend NTI.
According to records the paper obtained from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Shimp had been charged with careless driving twice, speeding three times and once for racing. His most-recent ticket came on July 27 in St. Johns County for reckless driving.
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