Cup race snub infuriates owner of Kentucky Speedway
By: By The Associated Press
SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — NASCAR’s decision Friday to not have a Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway in 2009, despite a change in ownership to Bruton Smith, has left the track’s founder livid.
Kentucky Speedway founder Jerry Carroll said in a phone interview Friday that he had contacted his attorneys to fight the decision.
“This is what bullies do and it’s been going on too long,” Carroll said. “They’ve showed their hand again. If they want to break us and want to run us out of business, get more creative.”
Smith, the Speedway Motorsports Inc. owner, announced Thursday that he had purchased the Kentucky track, located halfway between Cincinnati and Louisville, with the intention of having a Cup race there next season.
But after a sanctioning meeting Friday, NASCAR officials said it’s too late to consider Kentucky for next season’s schedule.
“The 2009 schedule will not include a Sprint Cup race in Kentucky, regardless of ownership,” NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said. “I don’t see any scenario where there will be a Sprint Cup race there in ’09.”
Carroll said 16 months gave NASCAR plenty of time to add a Cup race to the schedule. He said ticket sales at the track had gone through the roof since news of the ownership change, which fans assumed would bring a Cup race for 2009.
Poston said NASCAR has yet to receive a formal request for a race from SMI, which owns seven other NASCAR-sanctioned tracks.
According to papers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Smith has not yet completed the speedway purchase, in which he agreed to pay $78.3 million for the track that cost $152 million to build.
There is a 90-day window in which Smith can walk away from the deal.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Carroll were planning to meet with Smith on Sunday during the running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
Also being considered for the 2009 Sprint Cup schedule is a three-track swap of race dates. Atlanta would receive the Labor Day race that’s currently run in Fontana, Calif.; Fontana would receive Talladega’s fall race; and Talladega would receive Atlanta’s fall race.
That move is designed to help Atlanta and Fontana, which have struggled with weather problems on their current dates.
Kentucky Speedway regularly hosts NASCAR’s second-tier Nationwide Series, Indy Racing League and ARCA events, but has lobbied unsuccessfully since it opened in 2000 to bring a Cup event to the 1.5-mile oval.
With crowds of more than 70,000, the track is currently the largest venue that hosts a Nationwide event but doesn’t have a Cup race. Smith has said he immediately plans to add 50,000 more seats to make it more suitable for a Cup race.
The estimated economic impact that a Cup event would have on northern Kentucky is expected to approach $200 million.
The lure of that big-ticket event was so high, the track’s ownership filed an antitrust lawsuit in 2005 against NASCAR and International Speedway, alleging they worked together to create an unfair monopoly and prevent Kentucky from securing a Cup race.
The lawsuit was dismissed this year, but the speedway has appealed.