Speedway's Labor Day weekend doubly daunting

Trucks run Friday; IndyCars Saturday

awincze@herald-leader.comSeptember 2, 2010 

  • This weekendat Kentucky Speedway

    Friday

    8 p.m. — NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Built Ford Tough 225 (Speed channel)

    Saturday

    8:45 p.m. — IndyCar Kentucky Indy 300 (Versus)

The first thing that crosses the mind of Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger when he looks at the track's Friday schedule is "Please, don't let it rain."

Not only is the Sparta tri-oval playing host to back-to-back events Friday and Saturday and not only do both races feature some the sport's top drivers but — for the first time — the Speedway has the added challenge of trying to keep two entirely different camps equally happy.

Hosting multiple major racing series is nothing unusual for many NASCAR venues as the Camping World Truck, Nationwide, and Sprint Cup series often go hand-in-hand with one another on most weekends.

Beginning Friday, however, Kentucky Speedway will juggle that feat with a bit of a different twist with the Built Ford Tough 225 Truck Series race taking place one day before giving the spotlight over to the IndyCar Series for the Kentucky Indy 300 Saturday evening.

Simultaneously handling teams from two separate series is not unprecedented as Texas Motor Speedway — which like Kentucky is owned by Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc. — also holds its Truck and IndyCar races on the same weekend.

The logistics of pulling off the feat requires lots of advanced cooperation from all sides, not to mention a jam-packed schedule that has both series completing their final practices and going through qualifying all on the same day.

"There is no slack in the schedule," Simendinger said with a laugh when asked about Friday's lineup of events. "It's not easy, but we're a little fortunate because these guys all told us on the front end they'd be good with this and be able to co-exist.

"We did talk to Texas and asked them to share with us their schedule and how they ended up doing it. Then we also talked to the NASCAR and IRL guys and asked them, ''How did this work for you?' We've never done it before, but it's not like it's totally new ground."

Dividing up track time is only part of the battle. Dividing up the garage is another.

Unlike IndyCar where they don't start their cars until they are actually ready to go to the track, NASCAR has what is called a "hot garage" where the engines are often running as teams make necessary checks and adjustments before heading out.

Those differences amount to a different set of rules and safety precautions that must be followed. Thus, this weekend will see the Speedway literally giving each series their own sides of the garage area that will be enforced.

"Obviously we've had both the series here for a while so we know on each side what the requirements are," Simendinger said. "But once we give them which side of the garage area they'll have, it's up to each series to decide who will get what garage stalls. In the past (IndyCar) always liked to take two garage stalls for each team, but they're not going to have the space to do that now."

Of course, trying to please both camps might not be the Speedway's biggest challenge this weekend.

When it was announced last season the track was moving its Truck and IndyCar dates to Labor Day weekend, officials knew there was a strong possibility the IndyCar race specifically would be taking place on the same day as the Kentucky-Louisville football game — the Bluegrass State's own private Super Bowl.

Those familiar with SMI chairman Smith know shying away from daunting tasks isn't really his thing.

And, football game or not, the gregarious owner didn't see the point in having a couple smaller weekends on the schedule when he could have one big one.

"In Bruton's world, bigger is always better," Simendinger said. "He was looking at it like, 'You only have a Truck race that weekend? You have to put that with something.'

"I think there was also a feeling that he wanted to get our scheduling more like the other SMI tracks that really only have two big weekends, because that's what most tracks have. It's going to be really good practice for us for when we have our Cup race, Nationwide race and Truck race all together next year."

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