Debt forgiveness plan for NASCAR Hall of Fame approved

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Last night, the Charlotte (N.C.) City Council approved an agreement between Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and NASCAR that will see those parties forgive more than $22 million in debt from the city’s NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The proposed agreement went through on a 10-1 vote, with Councilman Kenny Smith providing the sole ‘nay’ according to the Charlotte Observer.

Charlotte will now make a one-time payment of $5 million to the two banks, said banks will write off the remainder of a $19 million loan, and NASCAR will waive Hall royalties of $3.2 million that it had been owed since the complex’s 2010 opening.

The banks will also each receive five years of Hall sponsorship, valued annually at $250,000, from the Hall’s operators, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

Additionally, NASCAR’s future royalty payments have been reduced from 10 percent of Hall revenues to 3 percent of revenues in excess of $10 million.

NASCAR’s chief communications officer, Brett Jewkes, tweeted the following after the council’s approval:

The Hall has lost more than $1 million annually and suffered from lower than projected attendance. Only 170,000 people visitors entered the Hall in 2014, a far cry from initial expectations of 400,000 visitors per year.

Sponsorships of the Hall, along with the sales of commemorative bricks, were expected to help pay off the loans from the banks but those initiatives have fallen short so far.

Under the new deal, the yearly financial loss for the Hall is expected to be reduced but not wiped out completely.

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”