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The sentiment expressed by this fan seems to be that expressed by all at the race.

Photos by: Jeff Kluss/ SIT

June 23, 2007 Article by Jeff Kluss/SIT

Well on June 16th it was an exciting weekend for all. Kentucky Motor Speedway has been open for 7 years now and still no Cup race to be found for the struggling operation. They have filed an anti-trust suit against ISC (International Speedway Corporation) in failing hopes that they can pry a Cup date out of NASCAR which is owned by the France family who also owns a 65% stake in ISC. The other 35% of ISC is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

When I had the great opportunity to attend this facility for the first time at its inaugural Busch race, it was a pristine new facility suitable for a Cup race. But as in all operations that get built (unless you are Bruton Smith owner of Speedway Motorsports International or ISC) there was no prior commitment by NASCAR that if it was built that a Cup race would be on the schedule. As has happened before in the past there were talks of such but supposedly not a commitment. So when the owners put together the land donated by the local government, bonds guaranteed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and financing for the remainder, all they came up with was a single Busch race. Then came a Craftsman Series truck race and finally an IRL (Indy Racing League) race. Even with these three annual events, it is still not enough to foot the bills.

Much like Dover Downs Corporation, a commitment to build a facility is not a guarantee of getting a Cup deal. Dover owns Nashville, St. Louis, and Memphis which are all loosers for the owners of the Dover, Delaware facility that has two Cup races and is the shining jewel of the Dover family. But much like Kentucky, Dover built or purchased facilities thinking they could pull off the miracle of getting a Cup race. But Dover managed to wrangle 2 Busch races out of NASCAR in addition to their IRL and Craftsman Truck races for the facility in Nashville.

Track ownership doesn’t mean sanctioning and a schedule. Just ask Bruton Smith, majority owner of SMI. It took five years and major legal expenses to wrangle a promised race for his Texas Motor Speedway. Initially NASCAR gave him his single Cup race when Texas opened up, but then it took another individual which is highly suspected of being under Mr. Smith’s guidance to lever by filing a lawsuit to get the second race out of NASCAR. Then it also took SMI paying an additional $55 million for the Rockingham Cup date. Unfortunately, Kentucky doesn’t have the resources of a Bruton Smith…at least not yet. Rumor has it that SMI is standing in the wings waiting for an opportunity to purchase the leftovers should Kentucky fail, or at the least create a cozy alliance where SMI is the main benefactor of the possible deal. For that matter, ISC was given the Kansas City facility and they still have only a single date. It’s fairly obvious that ISC is not going to pull out of Darlington since they have made a major investment into upgrades there which means basically that the only other track that might loose a date would be Martinsville. Trying to speculate on race dates and who is going to get what is tantamount to playing the lotto in hopes of an early retirement.

Either way, the folks at Kentucky Motor Speedway have put their hearts and souls into their operation and have managed to survive to date without the additional benefits from having a Cup date. They have been told that they can’t possibly get a Cup date unless they increase the capacity of the track, but why spend the money on the upgrade when you don’t know for sure if even that will meet the demands of NASCAR. What Kentucky needs to understand is that most likely they won’t see a date unless NASCAR does something dramatic like creating two divisions (much like an Eastern and Western Division situation) so that they can add to the schedule since 37 races is a full bill for any organization. The teams are overtaxed with their insane travel schedule, and the Busch teams are starting to show the stress of having Mexico City and Montreal on their schedules this year. The Busch single car teams are starting to drop out due to the additional expense and equipment requirements and what appears to be a major developing problem which can easily result in only the large multi-car teams being able to participate. The Roush-Fenway deal is evidence of the necessity of a major cash infusion to keep up with the horrendous cost of competing against the likes of Hendrick who can’t seem to loose during the first half of the Season. Now Childress will be adding another cup team, and Gibbs is rumored to be doing likewise. These developments within the ranks of the various teams seems to be indicative of a changing environment and Kentucky now seems to be a minor problem in comparison. NASCAR viewership is under increasing pressure, and the France family has a radically changing situation on their hands that they are attempting to deal with by adding two more cars to the Chase in hopes this will revive their ratings.

Now all this being said, it is doubtful that Kentucky will survive based on the hopes of getting a Cup date on their schedule. So should this be the case what are the options for Kentucky to survive short of a Bruton Smith riding in on his white stallion to save the day? Possibly Kentucky should consider approaching the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) which was an added side-show for Lowes (Charlotte) Motor Speedway. Or possibly they should think about adding the AMA (American Motorcycle Association) to their schedule. Another possibility would be the folks on the Rolex and Koni circuits since that is what has kept Mid-Ohio and Road Atlanta alive. The idea is that don’t expect Mohamed to come to the mountain, but get creative and make do for now. The facts are not in Kentucky’s favor to obtain a Cup race and the idea of an under-utilized facility doesn’t feed the bull dog.

All this does not mean that they don’t have a first rate facility, and great management though because they do. They have proven they can fill the stands when it comes to their Busch date and get probably the third largest attendance for Busch outside of Daytona and Bristol. The folks at Kentucky Motor Speedway are first rate individuals that know what gets the butts in the seats, and they are genuinely good people too. They just need to expand their horizons to survive, and SIT really hopes they do.

Now that all this speculation has been espoused and expounded upon by this writer what follows are some of the great shots that we took while in Kentucky. It was a great time, an exciting race, and we highly recommend that if you haven’t been there before…get out of your chair and start planning to go to Kentucky Motor Speedway for any of their events. It is definitely worth the price of a ticket and the expense to get there. They also have the best Speedway burgers on the circuit!

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Stephen Leicht winner of the Meijer 300

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3 Wide in Turn 1 at Kentucky

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There wasn’t a lack of excitement

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Carl Edward’s car (he led about half the race) before Steve Wallace

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Carl Edward’s after Steve Wallace–We hear half a car is better than none

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Official Busch Profile

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Nothing like pounding out some sheet metal for excitment

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Fuel cans everywhere!

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This adds a lot to the term “sweeping up”

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#28 Border Patrol/Jay Robinson Racing

We have to mention the Legends folks that entertained us earlier in the day. They were super and the kids participating were too neat.

 

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