Busch comes to the bluegrass

Speedway lands NASCAR's
series to cap 2001 season

By Don Ward

SPARTA, Ky. • After an inaugural racing season that saw attendance records shattered for NASCAR's Craftsman Truck and Slim Jim All-Pro series, and for the Automobile Club of America, the Kentucky Speedway has landed a NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division event for next year. The "Kentucky 300" will feature 200 laps of stock car racing around the 1.5-mile tri-oval, with a title sponsor to be named later.

Mark Cassis

From left,
General Manager Mark Cassis and Media Relations Director Time Bray announce the 2001 season schedule.

NASCAR CEO Mike Helton and Kentucky Speedway co-owner and developer Jerry Carroll announced the Busch event during an Aug. 29 press conference at the track. Helton praised the quality of the state-of-the-art facility; Carroll credited the enthusiasm of area racing for making a Busch Series event possible in only the second season.
"We are so very excited and honored to be awarded a Busch Series date for 2001," Carroll said. "Our entire team has worked extremely hard, and it truly reflects the enthusiasm and support of the speedway not only by our corporate sponsors but all of the race fans as well."
Helton called the announcement part of "our continuing efforts to grow the NASCAR schedule in major markets with more fans nationwide." He agreed to announce the Kentucky Speedway event prior to the release of the complete 2001 Busch Series schedule.
Kentucky Speedway officials later announced their complete 2001 season schedule during a Sept. 19 press conference. It has four action-packed weekends of racing, one each month from May through August. Also new next season will be two appearances of the USAC Midgets and the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series. NASCAR's Slim Jim All-Pro stock cars will return on two weekends to be packaged with NASCAR's Busch Series and Indy Racing League's "Belterra Casino Resort Indy 300."
NASCAR will bring its Busch Series drivers to the Gallatin County, Ky., track on June 16 with a 7:30 p.m. (EST) green flag. The Fox Network will televise the event live. Fox has arranged to begin televising NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Series events in 2001. 
The Busch race is being packaged with a Goody's Dash race on the speedway's smaller 1/4-mile track and a Slim Jim All-Pro race.
Season tickets and personal seat licenses went on sale Monday, Sept. 25. Single seat tickets will go on sale Jan. 1, announced Mark Cassis, V.P. and general manager.
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event, which this year drew a record crowd of 63,750, was moved to June 14 to accommodate the new event. The trucks will be televised on ESPN, while the IRL event returning on Aug. 12 will be televised on ABC.
Addition of the Busch Series event to the 2001 schedule will not require adding more seats to the speedway, which now seats 67,000, plus two club area and 50 luxury suites. However, Cassis said, "We may have to look at more suites, since all of our current boxes are sold out for the next two years."
Speedway officials say they may add 10,000 more grandstand seats in the near future.
During an Aug. 29 teleconference call, Carroll described the past progress and future goals of the track. Based on this past season's experience, Carroll said, "The market has showed us we've got a hungry group of people who want to see good, quality major league racing. That's what we're trying to bring them, and this next step has just been a tremendous asset to us."
Asked about the growth of the Busch Series over the years, Helton described how NASCAR has spread event westward to make the series more national in scope. "We've been fortunate to have opportunities such as this one where we have to take a look at a modern facility nestled in the middle of 350 million people within 300 miles, and it's very conducive to today's motorsports climate."
Helton, however, cautioned people not to assume this was an indication that a Winston Cup race would immediately follow. "There is not a master plan that ensures a Winston Cup race for Kentucky Speedway."
On Sept. 19, Cassis said track officials hope to double their attendance levels next year, perhaps drawing more than a half-million people over the four weekends of racing. He added that officials are working on new traffic patterns and parking at the facility to avoid any future problems ‹with moving people in and out of the venue.ž
Kroger and Belterra will return to sponsor the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the IRL race, respectively. ARCA Bondo Mar-Hyde Series returns for its second year. Officials also plan to hold at least two concerts next year, one in the spring and another in the fall. A Metallica hard rock concert in July drew 52,000 people to the track. 
The track also will be open year-round for testing by various racing teams. Amateur driving schools will also return.

• To purchase tickets to next year's Kentucky Speedway events, call 1-888-652-RACE.

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