COVINGTON, Ky. (AP) -- A federal judge said attorneys for NASCAR, International Speedway Corporation and Kentucky Speedway should consider returning to the bargaining table.
U.S. District Court judge William Bertelsman said Monday an expected monthlong trial, followed by several years of appeals, could be avoided if the two sides continue mediation.
NASCAR and ISC attorneys asked Bertelsman for a summary judgment Monday, arguing the speedway has insufficient evidence to prove NASCAR and ISC worked together with other tracks to keep the Kentucky track from acquiring a NASCAR Nextel Cup race.
Bertelsman said he won't rule on the motion until January at the earliest. A March 4, 2008 trial date already has been set.
``If you want to, now would be a good time to return to mediation,'' Bertelsman said.
The two sides met for five hours in June with no success, and Bertelsman said it was his understanding neither side wants to settle.
NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said it was ``premature'' to say whether NASCAR and ISC would be willing to return to mediation. Cincinnati attorney Stan Chesley, a co-counsel for the track, said track officials are ``always willing to sit down and talk.''
In the lawsuit, the speedway alleges NASCAR conspired to leave the Sparta, Ky., track and some other tracks out of the coveted Nextel Cup schedule despite their superior amenities.
The speedway is asking ISC be ordered to sell at least eight of the 12 tracks it owns that host Nextel Cup races and that the Kentucky speedway be awarded in excess of $200 million in damages.
The speedway's goal is to ``destroy an anticompetitive regime,'' said track co-counsel Stephen Susman.
He said that because NASCAR and ISC work so closely together -- the two companies are both controlled by the France family and share the same offices in Daytona Beach, Fla. -- that a jury could ``reasonably divine'' that the two companies have worked together to deny independent track races the chance to host a race.
The 1.5-mile tri-oval in northern Kentucky opened in 2000 and is host to several events each year, including a Busch Series and Craftsman Truck Series race, as well as an Indy Racing League event.
David Boies, lead attorney for NASCAR and ISC, argued that if NASCAR was intent on shutting out the speedway, it would not allow the speedway to host NASCAR-sponsored events.
``It's inconsistent with their logic,'' Boies said. ``NASCAR wouldn't support the track if it was trying to drive Kentucky out of business.''