Ferko v. National Ass'n for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc.
Ferko, et al. v. National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., et al., commonly known as the Ferko lawsuit, was an American lawsuit between plaintiff Francis Ferko, a resident of Plano, Texas and a minor shareholder of the publicly traded Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI), and defendants NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation (ISC), which are both owned by the France family. Ferko, a racing fan not associated with the executive management team of SMI, contended that the defendants violated antitrust laws in preventing SMI's Texas Motor Speedway from obtaining a promised second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race per racing season. The suit was filed in February 2002, and was settled out of court in May 2004. The settlement delivered a second Sprint Cup race each season to the track, but also resulted in numerous other changes to the NASCAR schedule of races and racing venues.
As the case was preparing to go to trial in 2004, the parties settled the lawsuit as part of a larger restructuring of NASCAR's schedule. In the settlement, ISC sold the North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham (now known as Rockingham Speedway) to SMI, but Rockingham's one NEXTEL Cup race (which had been held in February) was moved to ISC's Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Continuing with NASCAR's schedule realignment, Texas earned its promised second race (the reason for the lawsuit) when a November race, used for the prestigious Southern 500 (renamed the Dickies 500 in Texas), was moved to Texas from ISC's Darlington Raceway. As it happens, the November date had been inherited by Darlington from Rockingham only a year earlier, when Rockingham had been reduced from two NEXTEL Cup races to one. The November date gave Texas a race in the Chase for the Nextel Cup and cost Darlington the more prestigious of its two race dates. For its part, SMI had to agree that Rockingham would be used only for non-competition NASCAR uses, such as for movie settings about the sport or for testing. As a result of a 2006 NASCAR testing rule change limiting testing on tracks used for NASCAR competition, testing at Rockingham has become more commonplace. SMI sold off the Rockingham track in 2007.
Ferko's life fell apart as a direct result of the lawsuit. In 2002, he lost his job in food safety, because his boss disliked the publicity that Ferko received, and he and his wife were forced to move to Atlanta for his new job. Shortly after moving, their 20-year-old son Anthony, who remained in Texas to be with his own 6-month-old son, committed suicide, which Ferko believes may have been avoided if they had stayed in Texas with him. After Ferko and his wife failed to win custody of their grandson, they divorced.
The management team of SMI never rewarded Ferko, a fan and minor shareholder, for winning them a race slot worth millions of dollars. In 2005, before the initial running of the Dickies 500, Ferko expressed his disappointment in SMI not asking him to wave the green flag at the race, and said that "[k]nowing what I know now, I definitely would not have pursued [the lawsuit].... I never expected those kinds of unintended consequences to occur."
In 2005, Kentucky Speedway filed a similar suit against NASCAR and ISC, requesting a NEXTEL Cup race at their venue. However, unlike the promise of a second race at the heart of the Ferko lawsuit, the France family had expressly told Kentucky Speedway that it would not be given even one race, and so the case was filed on antitrust grounds only. The lawsuit was dismissed on January 7, 2008, although the track's owners appealed the dismissal. On May 22, 2008, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. announced it had purchased Kentucky Speedway from Kentucky Speedway, LLC and further litigation became moot as a result. The purchase was finalized on January 1, 2009. Bruton Smith, head of Speedway Motorsports Inc. who bought the racetrack, said he had plans to bring a Sprint Cup race to Kentucky Speedway. That came in 2011 when Kentucky Speedway gained a date at the expense of Atlanta Motor Speedway, its sister track.
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