plan to open
B.P. station in time for first race
(May 2001) Sparta, KY When Neal
OConnor inherited from a relative a hilly farm on
Hwy. 35 in Sparta, Ky., he never dreamed it would eventually
lie across from the front door of a future auto race track.
But last year during the height of the Kentucky
Speedways inaugural racing season, instead of grazing
cattle, OConnor and his wife, Darlene, found themselves
parking cars on the land that lies between I-71 and the
Speedway entry gates.
By the time the Metallica/Korn/Kid Rock concert took place
in early July, the OConnors had expanded their operation
to include camping to help accommodate some of the 52,000
people who attended the mega-event.
The Speedway wasnt allowing people inside
until a few hours before the concert, so they all wound
up here. It was one big party, recalled Darlene,
Now nearly a year after the first green flag fell at the
track, the OConnors are expanding again. Only this
time, theyve gotten some serious backers to help
them pull it off.
The couple is in the midst of a $1.5 million development
on the hilly fields across from the Speedway that will
eventually include a B.P. gas station and convenience
store, plus another seven acres set aside for fast food
restaurants and motels, sometime in the future.
The convenience store will feature 12 gas pumps, a hot
delicatessen, an ATM machine and a country store. The
couple wants to be open by early May and certainly in
time for the first race weekend at the Kentucky Speedway.
Theres a big ATV and motocross event May 5-6,
and we definitely want to be open in time for that,
said Neal, 39, who farms and works full time as a customer
service agent for Delta Air Lines at the Greater Cincinnati
Airport in northern Kentucky.
Pace Oil of Louisville is building the convenience store.
Excavation is being handled by LMS Contracting of Madison,
Ind. Come race weekends, the OConnors will continue
to park cars and allow primitive camping on the property.
They are considering adding electrical hookups next year,
now that the land has been smoothed down.
OConnor is counting on his family members to help
run the convenience store. He has 10 siblings. His sister,
Pam Locke, is going to manage the store. Others will pitch
in on race weekends, he said.
Its going to be a family run business all
the way, OConnor said.
The 400-acre family farm includes 150 acres that abuts
the back of the Kentucky Speedway and 30 acres directly
across the road where the convenience store is going in.
OConnor rents another 200 acres of farm land on
which he tends to 50 head of cattle and raises 10 acres
As if that werent enough, the OConnors also
have three daughters a 4-month-old, a 3-year-old
and an 18-year-old.
Gallatin County lawyer Larry Lawrence owns most of the
other land around the Speedway 1,500 acres in all,
some of which he has leased to a group that has been holding
summer ATV and motocross racing events.
Lawrences land located behind the Speedway is part
of a proposed airport. A study is under way to determine
the feasibility of a small airport adjacent to the Speedway
that would serve Gallatin, Owen and Carroll counties,
plus private aircraft coming to the Speedway on race weekends.
That would only add, of course, to the demand for the
Ive got a lot of ideas brewing in my head
about how this might all turn out, OConnor