During an IRL event at the speedway in May 1999, debris from a wreck flew into the crowd and killed three fans. Four months later two Lowe's stores were pipe-bombed in apparent retaliation for the accident. Last month, following a Winston Cup race at the track, a pedestrian bridge collapsed, injuring 107 people. Yet another accident involving fans occurred on Sunday. Before the Coca-Cola 600, four people suffered minor injuries when an explosion staged as part of a Memorial Day observance sent plywood into a crowd of people behind the pit wall.
Because of Lowe's misfortune companies are adding clauses in their naming-rights contracts that allow them to terminate their deals should anything happen that might damage or have a negative impact on the company's image or reputation, says Dean Bonham, chairman of The Bon-ham Group, a Denver company that specializes in naming-rights deals. "When you pay to name a facility and then your name and image are part of such negative situations," says Bonham, "it's almost like turning lemonade back into lemons."—D.F.