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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Throw the Businessmen from the Train: Kentucky Speedway Deserves a Cup Race Now

The soap opera circling around Kentucky Speedway and the track’s attempts to land a coveted Sprint Cup race date has become a fixture of the NASCAR rumor mill for years now, and I for one would love nothing more than to see this stupid white-collar fight between businessmen end. NASCAR for once is in the right, the former owners wrong. NASCAR is not a monopoly. There is nothing stopping any track owner out there from building a track and running races without NASCAR sanctioning. My favorite place to watch a race, the 3/8 mile dirt oval in Winchester, Va., has no sanctioning from anybody, yet the fans show up and see racing week after week that puts NASCAR, hell, big-time auto racing in all forms, to shame.

What the Kentucky owners fail to realize is that just because NASCAR can make the big money with its races, that doesn’t constitute monopoly. These businessmen have the right and ability to build a track and run stock car races. They don’t have the inherent right, a mandate, to make big money doing it.

I’m coming off the soap-box now, because this kind of debate regarding business practices, NASCAR management, etc., is overshadowing a story that can’t be told enough: the fans that frequent the Kentucky Speedway deserve a Cup race. And there is no reason NASCAR shouldn’t give them one.

In the face of the worst economic climate since the Great Depression, on Saturday 70,000 people filed into the seats in Sparta. For a Nationwide Series race. It wasn’t the sellout that Kentucky has had in recent years, but to put that crowd in perspective it was nearly five times the size that showed in Fontana. It was larger than showed up in Charlotte the night prior to the Coca-Cola 600. And judging from the shots ESPN broadcast, they were absolutely thrilled to be there.

Fortunately, they got to see a good show. It doesn’t make sense, but a 1.5-mile intermediate oval that has the lowest banking in NASCAR for its configuration put on a darned good race. Side-by-side racing was seen from one end of the track to another, the high groove a viable second lane. Plus, with the track inexplicably having turned rough and bumpy, the sterile oval facility took on some character: It’s not everyday you see a cookie-cutter throwing drivers around in its turns.

And again, how about that crowd?

This isn’t the first time that this story has been told… change the name of the winner and the same story could be told about any number of Kentucky Nationwide races over the last few years. The facility has put on a good show year after year, and the fans have packed the place year after year.

Meanwhile, we’ve got tracks on the schedule such as Fontana, where no one seemed to give a damn that NASCAR puts on races other than Sprint Cup events. Or Atlanta, that while putting on good races can’t seem to buy fans to put in the seats.

Sound simple enough? It should. Unfortunately, the NASCAR community is not immune to the real world, so we’re going to continue to hear about how NASCAR violates anti-trust laws, about how the Kentucky Speedway’s previous ownership is seeking to recoup their investment, about how Bruton Smith considers it a “moral obligation” that the previous ownership drop their lawsuit.

How many race fans care to hear this story that’s fit for the Wall Street Journal? I hear crickets.

Time for the businessmen to shut up and listen. There’s this great, modern racetrack that puts on good stock car racing and draws fans by the busload. They want a Cup race, they deserve a Cup race… and there’s money to be made in giving it to them.

Cut the crap. Make a Cup race at Kentucky happen. Give some of NASCAR’s best fans what they want. Now.