NASCAR stakeholders interested in Carolina Panthers ownership

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By Caleb Whisler, Staff Writer

With almost 90 percent of all NASCAR teams based in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, there have been numerous rumors spreading throughout about the potential of certain NASCAR stakeholders having interest in buying the Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers, Charlotte’s National Football League (NFL) franchise, is for sale after allegations of workplace misconduct arose from current team owner, Jerry Richardson. Richardson announced he would sell the team after more allegations arose.

In early 2016, Bruton Smith, executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., expressed possible interest in having Panthers ownership. However, a spokesperson for the Smith family declined comment for discussing interest in ownership of the franchise when Richardson announced selling the franchise.

This move is considered possible amongst the region after Marcus Smith’s attempt to bring Major League Soccer (MLS) to the Charlotte region has been halted due to funding issues.

Over the previous week, Felix Sabates’ name arose as a possible buyer for the Panthers. Sabates currently has minority ownership in Chip Ganassi Racing and a minority ownership role in the Charlotte Hornets, the region’s National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise.

Sabates is currently spearheading a team of investors to go in and buy Richardson’s stake in the Panthers. According to local news, the group of investors is made up of business professionals who live in the Charlotte area that have a “major presence” within the city.

“They’re not looking to make money. They’re looking for appreciation long term,” Sabates said. “For us, staying in this community, staying in this TV market, is very important.”

The goal of the investor group is to keep the team in the Charlotte region. There is also talks that this group of investors would like to build a new stadium to entertain major sporting events like the Super Bowl but there would have to be a balance of public and private funding, the same issue that cause Smith’s idea of a MLS expansion to be halted.

Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Ford Fusion for Team Penske, would be interested in a stake in the Panthers franchise but has not been approached by any investors.

“Idk. No one has asked me. Would definitely listen if they did,” Keselowski stated to Kickin’ The Tires via text message.

If Sabates’ plan goes forward, the investing group would have to be approved by current NFL owners. However, the league will not entertain bids until after the season is complete.

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