in Winston Cup schedule
looks good for Sparta
have fingers crossed for a 2004 race
SPARTA, Ky. (March 2003) Kentucky Speedway
officials are eagerly watching the recent public statements and maneuverings
by NASCAR executives regarding a possible shakeup of the 2004 Winston
Cup Series schedule. They are in hopes that any dramatic change in the
schedule would bode well for the Sparta, Ky., track being awarded a
Cup drivers (from left)
Ernie Irvin, Brett Bodine, Michael
Waltrip and Sterling Martin.
You never know whats going to happen, but
it looks interesting for us, said Mark Cassis, vice president
and general manager of the 4-year-old Kentucky Speedway. Weve
got our fingers crossed.
Kentucky Speedway developer Jerry Carroll and his investment partners
had hoped to have earned a Winston Cup date by now, but the France family
that owns NASCAR has been reluctant to award a race date to the track,
since it has no financial interest in the facility. The France familys
International Speedway Corp. owns all or part of 12 race sites.
Meantime, Kentucky Speedway officials have worked hard to develop a
first-class facility for fans and race teams, while putting on the best
show possible for its NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck
Series events. The track also plays host to race events for the Indy
Racing League and ARCA RE/MAX Series.
But Kentucky Speedway officials say they have no control over the decision
by NASCAR to bring a Winston Cup Series event to the Bluegrass state.
But on Jan. 21, NASCAR officials announced they had devised a 2004 schedule
realignment plan that could result in some tracks prolific
ones, at that losing coveted Winston Cup dates. During a state-of-the-sport
demonstration by NASCAR senior vice president George Pyne, Pyne vaguely
inferred that NASCAR would soon take a proactive approach in realigning
the schedule to accommodate supply and demand and geographic distribution
of Winston Cup dates.
When clarification was requested later in the interview, NASCAR chairman
Bill France rose from his seat to clarify the tracks at risk
Atlanta Motor Speedway, Lowes Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway
and North Carolina Speedway.
Theres four good candidates: Atlanta, a race here at Charlotte,
Darlington and Rockingham, said France, who appears in good health
after a multi-year battle with cancer. Were going to work
in concert with (the tracks). If they dont want to do it, they
dont have to do it. This is not a threat at all, but at the same
time, weve got to continue to grow the sport.
Under what France termed Realignment 2004 and Beyond, NASCAR
will work with track operators to determine whether shifting race dates
from one venue to another would be prudent for both the sport and the
tracks parent company.
For example, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. the company that owns
Atlanta, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Sears Point, Bristol and Texas
might opt to move a date from Atlanta to Texas.
Texas has long pleaded with NASCAR for a second date so much
so that the feud has escalated to the point of SMI filing suit against
NASCAR and Atlanta rarely sells out its spring event and is often
victimized by inclement weather.
This is going to be available to every track operator, France
said. If Dover would like to take one of their races and shift
it to St. Louis or Nashville, or if Humpy and Bruton would like to take
an Atlanta race and shift it to Texas where theyll sell all their
tickets from what I read were going to be entertaining
NASCAR president Mike Helton added that lengthening an already marathonish
schedule is not part of NASCARs plan at this time. The Winston
Cup Series currently competes 38 times in a 41-week window.
Supplemented by NASCAR.com reports.
The schedule is pretty well maxed out. If its not, its
pretty close to it, Helton said. Weve been fortunate
to be able to grow over the past several years, getting into new market
areas like Kansas City, Las Vegas, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Chicago and Miami.
Those opportunities dont exist anymore.
We have 38 weekends were racing in a 41-week window. So
the idea here is make more efficient use of that, working along without
abandoning past practices of putting the schedule together.
Not only are some tracks in danger of losing races, but some may be
forced to install lighting in order to keep them. NASCAR is also looking
at changing the start times to many of its events to best maximize television
The playoffs in the NFL are enjoying an eight percent increase
in ratings because of the later start times. Theyre two hours
later, France said. So, obviously, there are more (television)
sets on the later the day goes. So it stands to reason youll have
Helton even said that running the Daytona 500 under the lights wasnt
out of the question.
The broadcast partners today is a significant partner to us, so
we have to start making decisions thats relative to their involvement,
Helton said. And it could be a primetime Daytona 500 some day,
sure. We just want to make more efficient use of our schedule.
The following day, Speedway Motorsports Inc. owner Bruton Smith reacted
to the NASCAR announcement by saying there would be zero chance
his company would move a race from one of its other tracks to its Texas
Motor Speedway, which already has one Cup date. SMI owns tracks in Atlanta,
Lowes in Charlotte, N.C., Bristol, Tenn., and Las Vegas. Atlanta,
Lowes and Bristol each have two Cup dates a year.
Supplemented by NASCAR.com reports.
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