Mark Story's notes: Kentucky Speedway expects surge of ticket sales after Earnhardt Jr.'s win

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJune 18, 2012 

APTOPIX NASCAR Michigan Auto Racing

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s win at the Sprint Cup Quicken Loans 400 on Sunday was a testament to his perseverance and proof that a comeback from rock bottom is possible. Page C2

BOB BRODBECK — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Fast-break points from the Dale Jr. victory celebration:

21. Dale Earnhardt Jr. After NASCAR's Crown Prince ended a four-year losing streak with a dominating victory at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, the happiest person may not have been car owner Rick Hendrick, crew chief Steve Letarte or even Junior.

20. Mark Simendinger. The Kentucky Speedway General Manager is ecstatic to have a recent win by the most popular race-car driver in the United States to help sell tickets for the June 30 Quaker State 400.

19. A 'Junior boost' at the gate? "I sure think so," Simendinger said Monday. "I'm counting on it."

18. The ticket count. After last season's inaugural Quaker State 400 was a complete sellout of 107,000-plus, Simendinger says this year's ticket sales are not yet at the 100,000 mark. "Things are trending up," he says. "But we're not there (at 100,000) yet."

17. The Earnhardt Jr. effect. "I think a lot of fans around here would love to come to Kentucky Speedway and watch Dale Jr. win a race," Simendinger said. "Now, they can come with a lot more confidence."

16. Kyle Busch. The defending Quaker State 400 champion is often treated as a villain by NASCAR fans. I asked him last week at Kentucky Speedway how he feels about that.

15. Not the only star to get booed. "I think anytime, you'd rather have 100 percent cheers rather than (some) cheers and boos," Busch said. "But that's part of it. I think everybody who's been a popular NASCAR driver has always had (a villain's phase), whether it's been (Dale Earnhardt) Senior, (Darrell) Waltrip, (Rusty) Wallace, ... Jeff Gordon."

14. Will fan opinion turn? Many NASCAR "villains" eventually become popular. Will Busch? "There's no telling. Maybe, eventually, one day," he said. "Normally toward the end of a driver's career, the fans have turned and they cheer for them. (Laughs). I still ask Jeff Gordon when that's going to happen for him."

13. Nazr goes for a second ring. If Oklahoma City rallies past Miami to claim the NBA title, it will be the second championship for former Kentucky center Nazr Mohammed. The OKC backup big man also won an NBA title with San Antonio in 2005.

12. Rare feat for ex-Cat. Believe it or not, there are only two former Kentucky players who have played on more than one NBA championship team.

11. Lou Tsioropoulos. The ex-Kentucky forward won NBA titles as a Boston Celtics reserve in 1957 and '59.

10. Frank Ramsey. The former Kentucky star played on a whopping seven Boston NBA championship teams: 1957, '59, '60, '61, '62, '63 and '64.

9. Ex-Cats in NBA mock draft I. At nbadraft.net, they predict: No. 1 Anthony Davis (New Orleans); 5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Sacramento); 16. Marquis Teague (Houston), 17. Terrence Jones (Dallas); 25. Doron Lamb (Memphis); and 42. Darius Miller (Milwaukee in second round).

8. Ex-Cats in NBA mock draft II. At draftexpress.com, they project: No. 1 Anthony Davis (New Orleans); 3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Washington); 17. Terrence Jones (Dallas); 25. Marquis Teague (Memphis); 35. Doron Lamb (Golden State, second round); 36. Darius Miller (Sacramento, second round).

7. The agent game. It is fascinating (to me, at least) to see which agents sign which pro-bound players.

6. Three former Wildcats pick same rep. Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Anthony Davis have all gone with mega-agent Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group (for Davis, Wasserman's Thad Foucher is listed as his primary representative, with Tellem secondary).

5. MKG goes with CAA. As expected, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist picked Leon Rose of Creative Artists Agency as his representative. William Wesley (Worldwide Wes) is a long-standing friend of MKG's family and Wesley has ties to CAA.

4. Marquis Teague. The former UK point guard chose Andy Miller (ASM Sports), the same agent his older brother, Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague, uses.

3. Darius Miller. Ex-Cats swingman has picked Doug Neustadt, who represents Miller's buddy, former Bryan Station and Butler star Shelvin Mack.

2. 74. A reader emailed wanting to start a countdown to the kickoff of the 2012 Kentucky football season. As you read this, there are 74 days until the Cats invade Papa John's Cardinal Stadium to face archrival Louisville.

1. 570. It's now 570 days since Tennessee last beat Kentucky at football.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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