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With a Sprint Cup race car as a backdrop and surrounded by NASCAR and state government dignitaries, Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bruton Smith announced that Kentucky Speedway will play host to its inaugural 400-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday, July 9, 2011.
Reaching the top echelon of NASCAR racing is the culmination of more than a decade of development, court battles and tax breaks. The Speedway first played host to NASCAR-sanctioned truck and Nationwide car events since 2001, but earning a date on the schedule for the Cup cars—NASCAR’s premiere series—remained elusive until now.
“This is like finally making it to the top of Mt. Everest,” popular driver and television analyst Darrell Waltrip said. Waltrip, an Owensboro, Ky., native, served as master of ceremonies during a news conference at the Sparta, Ky., facility. “This man, when he gives you his word you can take it to the bank,” Waltrip said, introducing Smith.
“What we’re going to be doing here between now and next year is we’re going to be spending $90 to $100 million,” Smith said. “What you have here is a big economic engine. This is the locomotive that’s going to drive the economy.”
Smith announced plans to add 50,000 seats to the existing 65,000 already in place, additional restrooms, 12 more elevators and open another 200 acres for camping.
“We want this to be fan friendly,” he said. “When you come to Kentucky Speedway we want you to come back again and again and again.”
Smith also encouraged Beshear, Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Greg Stumbo to look into providing land near the speedway for a new airport with a 6,500-ft runway.
“You get me the land and I’ll have it built in six months,” he said.
Smith and SMI took over ownership of Kentucky Speedway from a consortium of owners headed by Jerry Carroll on Dec. 31, 2008. Two months later SMI invested $13.5 million on facility enhancements, including expanded parking areas, 200 additional camping spots, new entrance areas and a restroom/bathhouse facility.
“Kentucky has long been known for its four-legged horsepower,” Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said. “Now Kentucky will also be come known for its horsepower on wheels. The addition of a 400-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup race in 2011 solidifies the speedway’s status as a world-class sports venue in the nation’s number one spectator sport.”