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."