Hundreds travel to Sparta, fill campgrounds outside Kentucky Speedway

Lexington Herald-LeaderJune 28, 2013 

SPARTA — RVs lined the camping grounds surrounding the Kentucky Speedway on Friday as fans played cornhole, shared food and sunbathed in the summer heat. Time was spent setting up camp and relaxing before the NASCAR Nationwide Series Feed the Children 300 that night.

Racing fan Helen Camplin traveled nearly 10 hours from Toronto for her first Kentucky Speedway race. Camplin, her husband and their son had just arrived at midday on Friday and were settling in for the weekend's festivities.

Camplin, who was sunbathing outside her RV, said she loves the atmosphere of the RV campgrounds and races. This year, the Camplins have been to the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., and Talladega in Alabama.

"We like the whole experience," she said.

She said she loves to travel with her family in their RV.

"You can pick up anywhere you want, go anywhere you want," she said.

Hundreds of people were at the campgrounds Friday. Some people came for the races; others said they were just hanging out with friends.

Most of them made the trip to Sparta on Thursday or Friday morning. By Friday afternoon, the area outside the track started to resemble a small town with rows of RVs, campers, trucks and SUVs.

Three men — Tom Ragland, Bobby Wagner and John Wuertz — wearing matching yellow shirts handed out cookies and water to fans in Millionaires Row campgrounds.

They were also handing out Bibles. The men are volunteers for Kentucky Raceway Ministries, an organization with the mission of "bringing race fans to Christ."

Ragland, of Jeffersonville, Ind., will be attending the Kentucky Speedway for his third year.

The response to the ministry, he said, is very positive.

"It's a good reception," he said, "people are generally appreciative."

It is the organization's 14th year at the Kentucky Speedway and about 200 volunteers will work on Saturday, said JT Marsh, executive director of the Ministries.

Part of their efforts this year include a "Kids Zone" in parking lot E. In its first year, the Kids Zone provides an atmosphere for families, where they can come for free games and water.

"We'll help anybody from jumping cars to helping kids," said Larry Stone of London, who is the campground director and a chaplain for the organization, which had members working throughout the RV lots and inside the infield.

"We have such a very powerful, good relationship with the track," Stone said. "We are not threatening. We are not in-your-face evangelism."

Stone, who has been working with the ministry for the past 13 years, comes out every year to spread the organization's message and work with the children.

Last year, the group passed out 5,000 Bibles and 10,000 bottles of water to fans. The Bibles had different themes, such as race cars and trucks.

"People are more interested if it has something to do with them," Stone said.

On Saturday, they plan to continue to do the same.

Rachel Aretakis: (859) 231-3197. Twitter: @heraldleader raretakis@herald-leader.com tlashbrook@herald-leader.com

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