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Vindicated Visionary

Kentucky Speedway’s Jerry Carroll
has bittersweet end to dream

New owner Bruton Smith makes
good on promise to land Sprint Cup

By Don Ward
Editor

September 2010 Indiana Edition Cover

September 2010
Indiana Edition Cover

SPARTA, Ky. (September 2010) – Kentucky Speedway fans are scrambling to order tickets for next year’s Sprint Cup race in the wake of new owner Bruton Smith’s Aug. 10 announcement that NASCAR had awarded the Gallatin County track a race date of July 9, 2011.
The telephone lines have been lighting up at the track’s corporate headquarters in Fort Mitchell, Ky., officials there say.
A large press conference was held under a huge tent near the entrance to the track that attracted hundreds of reporters, TV and still photographers, politicians and VIPs from the region. That was where new owner Bruton Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., made the announcement flanked by NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR official Steve O’Donnell, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and a host of other politicians and dignitaries.
“Let me put it this way: When I tried to call our ticket manager, I couldn’t get through to him,” said Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger in the days following the announcement. “And I called him again the next day, and I still couldn’t get through. It’s been crazy. I can’t even get through to find out how we’re doing.”
Hundreds of NASCAR fans and season ticket holders are trying to lock in their chance to obtain seats to next year’s inaugural 400-mile Sprint Cup race. Those who hold season tickets will get first priority. Fans who put down a deposit for 2011 season tickets will get second priority.
The Sprint Cup race will be combined with a NASCAR Nationwide Series race the night before, and track officials have not yet decided whether to bundle the ticket sales for both events once they begin selling single event tickets. Many NASCAR tracks force fans to purchase both events. If the sales for both races are bundled, the track will likely wait to see what is left before selling single event tickets, Simendinger said.
The track currently seats around 66,089, but with Smith’s announced plans to add another 50,000 seats before next year, the track’s capacity is expected to reach around 116,000.

Sprint Cup Group

Photo by Don Ward

Posing for a celebratory photo
Aug. 10 at the Kentucky Speedway
are (front row from left) NASCAR
Vice President of Operations
Steve O’Donnell, Kentucky Gov.
Steve Beshear, Miss Sprint Cup
Amanda Wright, Jerry Carroll,
Bruton Smith, Marcus Smith, (back
row from left) Darrell Waltrip,
NASCAR driver Joey Logano,
Kentucky State Senate President
David Williams, Kentucky House
of Representatives Speaker Greg
Stumbo and track General Manager
Mark Simendinger.

Expansion work totalling $100 million is scheduled to begin soon after the track’s final race weekend, which is Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 3-4. The track will play host to NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night and the IndyCar Series race on Saturday night.
Then the dirt will begin to fly as construction begins on the expansion, which in addition to more seats will include more restrooms and elevators, and clear more than 200 acres for additional camping.
The planned development means that more than 100,000 people could visit the track for one race weekend, with an estimated economic impact of $150 million to the region.
“It will be enormous,” said Beshear. “My guess is that it will be the largest economic impact of any multi-day sporting event that Kentucky’s ever had. To think that we’ll have this every year is even more of a plus for us.”
Waltrip and others praised the day of the announcement as a decision that was too long in coming. “Today is like climbing Mount Everest, Waltrip said at the podium. “We’ve been way up, and we’ve slid way back a number of times. But today that climb and making it to that summit is what we hoped and dreamed about.”
Beshear, who last year signed legislation to provide economic tax incentives to the new owner if he landed a Sprint Cup race, said, “I knew when I met Bruton that somehow we were going to make this happen because he’s a guy who makes things happen.”
Smith, meanwhile, used the opportunity to lobby the governor for help in building an airport near the track to make it easier for the NASCAR drivers and team members to access the site on race weekends. “When NASCAR comes to town, the teams bring bring in more than 150 aircraft and 150 motorcoaches alone,” he said. He added that an airport would spur additional development as well. Beshear promised to work on developing an airport.

Steve Beshear and Bruton Smith

Photo by Don Ward

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear
shares a laugh with new owner
Bruton Smith (middle) and his son,
Marcus Smith prior to the
Aug. 10 press conference.

The Cup date for Kentucky was made possible by taking away one of Atlanta’s two races. The schedule was shuffled, giving Kentucky the weekend usually held at Chicagoland. That race was moved to later in the season.
Smith said he was sorry to see Atlanta lose a race but was also excited to provide one in the NASCAR-starved Cincinnati and Kentucky markets. He cited the fact that the Kentucky Speedway has consistently proven it can pack in 70,000 fans for a Nationwide Series race, so it should be just as rich a market for the Sprint Cup.
“It won’t be a problem here because I don’t think you can find an area in the United States that is more ready than this one is,” Smith said. “I have no concern about that. You can go back and look at how many fans we’ve had here for Nationwide and Trucks, and I think this will even draw in new fans.”
Gallatin County officials, meanwhile, are bracing for the onslaught of development, traffic and people to visit in the coming years. “We expect to see an increased interest in people wanting to build hotels and restaurants and businesses throughout the area. We just don’t know what this will bring yet,” said Gallatin County Judge-Executive Kenny French.
The county only has four hotels totaling 200 rooms and manages its tourism efforts with an all-volunteer, seven-member board, according to Gallatin County’s tourism director Wayne Rassman.
“Our first goal is to hire a tourism director and then get to work at what we need to do to prepare for a Sprint Cup race in Gallatin County,” Rassman said. “We’ve got to work fast, because a year will go by fast and the race will be here before you know it. We want to reach out to our neighboring tourism boards and see what we can do as a region to get ready.”

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