NASCAR magnate says he’d buy Panthers “if the price is right”

AP

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has struck a deal to keep his team in Charlotte for 15 years in exchange for public money, and has already prepared to have the team sold within two years of his death.

But if he wanted to divest now, he apparently has an option.

Bruton Smith, a billionaire NASCAR track owner based out of Charlotte, just made a magnanimous if more than a little self-serving gesture during an appearance on local radio.

During an appearance with WBT-AM’s Keith Larson, Smith referenced Richardson’s will stating the team would be sold within two years of his passing, then said: “Why two years? Why not two months?”

“Do you think he’s interested in selling?” Smith asked the host. “I have not approached him. If the price is right, yeah, I’d be interested.”

Smith, who will turn 86 in March, also said he “would commit to the city, and I would not ask them for any money. . . .

“Maybe Mr. Richardson had just as soon sell it today as commit to selling it two years after his passing. I don’t know. That could happen, don’t you think?”

Smith, the owner of Sonic Automotive, and Speedway Motorsports Inc., owns a number of NASCAR tracks. But he threatened to move the one nearest Charlotte in a spat with government officials over tax subsidies, among other rows over tax dollars. The exit off Interstate 85 to get to his facility is now known as “Bruton Smith Boulevard.”

He’s also a skilled promoter, and knows how to pick a fight and stir a pot.

Whether he’s serious about buying his local NFL franchise remains to be seen, but Smith has clearly taken a swipe at Richardson after last week’s deal to accept more than $200 million of state and local assistance to upgrade Bank of America Stadium.