I’m not promising that this is going to be a weekly column, but Tom Bowles asked me to comment anytime I thought I had something to say. Well, that fits me pretty much all the time, but the key is having something to say that people might want to hear. As one of the announcers at Corbin Speedway, I fight that battle nearly every week.
There was a note in the news recently that the litigation which has stood in the way of Kentucky Speedway getting a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is over. A suit filed by four trusts had challenged the right of Jerry Carroll, one of the founding owners, to “control the fate” of the original anti-trust lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation.
I’m surmising that those four trusts are now connected in some way to the new ownership group, Speedway Motorsports Inc., headed by Bruton Smith, which has invested a pretty hefty piece of change (read that, “millions”) in infrastructure and cosmetic improvements at Kentucky Speedway.
Apparently, an agreement was reached when attorneys representing both sides informed the court that they had settled. Exactly what this means for the original anti-trust suit is unclear. But here’s one thing we do know for sure: the new ownership group (SMI) led by Bruton Smith has no interest in pursuing that action. NASCAR had maintained they would never consider allowing a Sprint Cup race there until the anti-trust action was resolved.
So, once the lawsuit clears up Bruton wants to hold a Sprint Cup race at Kentucky in 2011. One reason for the recent settlement could be that the track’s former owners will receive a $7.5 million contingency payment from SMI if a Sprint Cup race is ever scheduled at Kentucky. That would certainly color my thinking if I was involved.
Whether there will be a top-level NASCAR race there next year is still very much open to question. I don’t think NASCAR is interested in expanding the schedule. That leaves the option of moving a race from another facility to Kentucky.
It probably goes without saying that ISC isn’t interested in moving one of their dates. As a matter of fact, if they’re going to start shuffling dates around, I’d rather see them take one of those California races and move the Labor Day race back to Darlington. But then, so would thousands of other people.
This leaves Bruton and SMI with the choice to move one of their races to Kentucky. Obviously, that is what’s most likely to happen. I guess the bottom lines of the tracks involved would be the determining factor.
Now, what does a Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway mean to the commonwealth? Millions in the economy, as tracks have proven all over the country.
One interesting note: Kentucky has a very rich history in stock car racing, going back to before the time when Darrell Waltrip came out of Owensboro. However, no matter what happens, nobody but Corbin Speedway will ever be able to say they had the first top-level NASCAR race in Kentucky.
There was a 200-lapper here back in 1954 when it was a half-mile dirt track. Lee Petty won it in a ’54 Chrysler. It was the week before Darlington, I believe, and the elder Petty was on his way to his first championship.
So no matter what y’all do up there, Bruton, we was first.