WORTH THE TRIP
Kentucky Speedway realizes dream for Sprint Cup
Sparta track expands for July triple-header
All hands are on deck at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, counting down the days until July 9, when the green flag will drop on the raceway's first-ever Sprint Cup Series.
The Cup race will be the crown jewel of a triple-header weekend that will begin on Thursday, July 7, with the Camping World Truck Series, and Friday with the Nationwide Series, followed by the 400-mile Sprint Cup Series, the big daddy of them all. All races will be at night under the lights.
The track is currently a construction site, undergoing a meta-morphosis from a 66,000-seat, 1.5-mile tri-oval super-speedway into a 106,000-seat, 1.5-mile tri-oval super-
speedway with a new and improved pit road much closer to the fans.
Bruton Smith and his Speedway Motorsports Inc. entered the picture in May 2008, purchasing the track from the original ownership group led by Chairman Jerry Carroll. With tracks in Charlotte, North Carolina; Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Bristol, Tennessee; Sonoma, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and New Hampshire, Smith had big-league clout and a good relationship with the NASCAR hierarchy.
"Kentucky Speedway is in the center of a hotbed of motor racing," Smith says. "And it has more race fans per capita than anywhere that we are in business."
Smith also thought the price was right. "It was offered to me at a bargain basement price," he says of the $78.3 million deal. "We are spending money to enhance the speedway in order to make it even more picture perfect."
General Manager Mark Simendinger has been there from the beginning, when Carroll brought him in to help build the Kentucky track's resume.
"What a week it's going to be," Simendinger says. "It'll start over the July 4 weekend and continue through races on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. We'll have fans here in their RVs camping for almost one full week."
Gov. Steve Beshear is quick to point out the state's role in helping to entice Smith to make Kentucky Speedway a part of his company.
"In its 11th year, the speedway has finally reached the pinnacle," Beshear says. "This is NASCAR's first new market since 2001, and we predict they will discover Kentucky to be a lucrative, popular, and knowledgeable market."
Kentucky Speedway was one of the first major projects to receive tax incentives through the state's Tourism Development Act when it was built.
But when Smith was thinking about coming on board, he laid out a plan that included spending an additional $90-$100 million to bring NASCAR Sprint Cup racing to Kentucky. State legislators expanded and extended the original tourism act to include existing venues and to accommodate the additional investment at Kentucky Speedway.
The track's new look will be most evident with the construction of a pair of seating towers, one near turn one and the other near turn four. Plans call for them to be 49 rows high on top of existing seats, which will provide approximately 20,000 additional seats each. There will be more restrooms, concessions, elevators, and gift shops, all necessary to support a facility that will draw more than 100,000 fans.
Another major addition will be the opening of 250 acres for camping and motor-home parking.
NASCAR has 36 official point races, and now little Sparta is the home of one of them.
Kentucky Speedway's six-race season ticket plans include a reserved seat for the historic first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Choose from five pricing zones for seats: 1-3 season tickets from $199 each to $309 each; 4 or more tickets from $179 each to $270 each.
Season ticket benefits:
* Same seats for NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide Series, and IndyCar Series events
* Rights to renew seats each year and increase order
* Priority notification and 15% discount on individual event tickets (non-Sprint Cup Series)
Go online to www.kentuckyspeedway.com or call (859) 578-2300.