CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bruton Smith and his son Marcus, who made a name in developing the Charlotte Motor Speedway and tracks across the country, are now interested in joining the local group that wants to buy the Carolina Panthers.
NBC Charlotte first reported last week that the owner of NASCAR Brian France was going to be part of the group headed up by Felix Sabates of Charlotte who is already a minority owner of the Hornets.
Sabates today told NBC Charlotte he had spoken to the Smiths and added they have an interest in pursuing further discussions.
Bruton Smith is chairman of Speedway Motorsports that operates the Charlotte Motor Speedway and other tracks across the country. Marcus Smith is CEO of the company and recently led the effort to bring a major league soccer team to Charlotte.
Speedway spokesperson Scott Cooper said the Smiths were not going to comment on any interest they might have in buying the team.
Also on Wednesday, James Mitchell, the powerful head of the Economic Development Committee of the Charlotte City Council said he will do all he can to keep the Panthers in Charlotte.
Mitchell was responding to an NBC Charlotte report that the Sabates group was interested in land located off Carowinds Boulevard at the state line.
Asked if he could support that location, Mitchell said, “We are about keeping the asset that we cherish in Charlotte.”
He then added, “I’m going to keep all possibilities open but my preference will be Charlotte.”
State Representative Chaz Beasley who represents the area nearest the state line said everyone needs to keep an open mind.
“This is a regional team. It’s the Carolina Panthers, not the Charlotte Panthers and we need to treat it that way. We should try to do what’s best for the entire region and the state as well,” he said.