Politics & Government

NASCAR appears unable to gain ground at Capitol

Top state legislators all but declared the proposal for a tax-financed NASCAR track dead the day after holding hearings on it in Olympia.

"The quantity of no votes, obviously that outweighs the yes votes, whatever they may be," House Speaker Frank Chopp said Wednesday.

Chopp said he's heard from many legislators who are against the track. He said that was particularly true Wednesday, the day after a hearing in the Legislature on the $368 million speedway proposal.

Normally, he said, he'd hear from lots of lawmakers if a measure has a chance. "The silence is deafening," the Seattle Democrat said.

Rep. Geoff Simpson, the main sponsor of the NASCAR bill in the House, said he went to talk to Chopp about it later in the day.

Simpson, a Covington Democrat, said it was a good conversation, and he does not think the bill is dead. It's still an uphill battle, Simpson said.

NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip, along with Vancouver-born driver Greg Biffle, were scheduled to come to Washington state late Wednesday afternoon to lend their star power to the bill.

Chopp's comments

Chopp was dismissive when asked about Petty, a hugely popular figure known as The King in the world of racing.

"You mean the guy who got picked up for DUI?" the House speaker said. Chopp quickly added that he'd only heard about a drunken driving incident and was not sure that it was true.

Still, the speaker made it clear he wasn't impressed.

"He's not a member of the House, last time I checked," Chopp said.

The News Tribune could find no evidence Wednesday that Petty was ever involved in drunken driving. Petty's racing team, in fact, has never allowed beer company decals on its cars because of his mother's objections.

Petty was charged with reckless driving and hit and run in 1996. Petty was accused of bumping another car from behind on an interstate highway, then passing it and driving away. He paid a $65 fine.

Rep. Ross Hunter, chairman of the House Finance Committee, gave a three-and-a-half hour hearing to the NASCAR bill on Tuesday night.

"There are huge problems with that bill," Hunter said Wednesday.

Grant Lynch, vice president of the company that wants to build the track in Kitsap County, said he has heard a lot of interest from legislators.

"It's a process and it's tough and were going to press on," Lynch said. "We do have momentum."