Ky. Speedway owner takes potshots at Churchill again

mstory@herald-leader.comJuly 9, 2011 

  • First-time winners

    When Kentucky Speedway hosts its first Sprint Cup race on Saturday, it will be the ninth track newly added to the Cup schedule since 1993. A list of the tracks that have joined the Cup schedule since '93, and the winners of those events:

    Year Track and winner

    2001 Chicagoland, Kevin Harvick

    2001 Kansas, Jeff Gordon

    1999 Homestead, Tony Stewart

    1998 Las Vegas, Mark Martin

    1997 Texas, Jeff Burton

    1997 California, Jeff Gordon

    1994 Indianapolis, Jeff Gordon

    1993 New Hampshire, Rusty Wallace

    First-time winners at Sparta

    The winners of the first major races at Kentucky Speedway:

    NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: 2000, Greg Biffle

    NASCAR Nationwide Series: 2001, Kevin Harvick

    Izod IndyCar Series: 2000, Buddy Lazier

SPARTA — As he's done before, Kentucky Speedway owner Bruton Smith directed a zinger at Churchill Downs Friday by challenging the attendance figures the horse track announces for the Kentucky Derby.

In 2010, the announced crowd for the Derby was 155,804. This year, Churchill said the Derby attendance was an all-time record 164,858.

The Quaker State 400, Saturday's inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, has already sold out the 107,000-seat grandstands.

With patrons in the infield, the backstretch campground area and standing-room tickets, it is expected the total attendance will be around 120,000.

When a reporter asked Smith on Friday if he envisioned expanding the Speedway to a capacity of 151,000 because Churchill often draws 150,000 for the Derby, Smith replied "they do not.

"I've been there many times. ... They have never had 150,000. They have no place to put 150,000. They have no parking. ... You couldn't possibly put 150,000 people in there. People will be sitting right on top of each other."

Getting warmed up, Smith added "This week, we will outdraw this 'horsey race,' " he said in reference to the Derby.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear — in Sparta for a news conference — said he is confident that Churchill Downs is not padding Derby attendance.

"I've been to a number of Derbys," Beshear said. "While I don't sit there and count everybody there, I can guarantee those numbers are pretty accurate."

Is Smith making a public relations mistake by pitting the Cup race attendance against that of the Derby, Kentucky's longtime, signature sporting event?

"The Derby is already wildly successful every year," Beshear said. "(The Cup race) is going to be wildly successful every year. I'm just happy we've got two great events like this in Kentucky."

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