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Speedway asks state aid to expand

FRANKFORT — Kentucky Speedway wants the state to help foot the bill for a planned $75 million expansion designed to lure a NASCAR Sprint Cup race next year.

State lawmakers will consider a proposal in coming weeks to provide hefty tax incentives — perhaps about $19 million — to help expand the 72,000-seat track in Sparta.

The expansion would add 50,000 seats to the facility, triple the number of restrooms, add more concessions, provide more parking and build more roads, said Bruton Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns Kentucky Speedway.

Smith said the economic impact to Kentucky could be as much as $200 million.

Smith said he thinks Kentucky Speedway could land a Sprint Cup race next year, but added that he might have to move a date from one of the other tracks he owns to make it happen.

Either way, the track must host a Sprint Cup race to get the incentives, Gov. Steve Beshear said in a Capitol news conference.

"NASCAR is the No. 1 spectator sport in the United States and is broadcast in more than 150 countries and 30 languages," Beshear said. "I'm excited about the potential of Kentucky joining these ranks."

The Sprint Cup Series is the top racing series for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing.

Half of its 36-race season is held in the Southeast.NASCAR's most prestigious race, the Daytona 500, had a national TV audience last year of about 17.8 million.

The Kentucky track has lobbied unsuccessfully since it opened in 2000 to bring a Sprint Cup event to the 1.5-mile oval.

The proposed incentive package would add a new category to the Kentucky Tourism Development Act. It would allow Speedway Motors to recover up to 25 percent of expansion costs over 20 years.

House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, and Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said legislation to help Kentucky Speedway would add a new eligible category — "legacy expansion" projects — to receive state incentives.

Under the proposed legislation, the projects must conduct events that are in the top league, series or sanctioned level of their sport, provide permanent seating for 65,000 spectators and be broadcast nationally.

The venue previously must have been approved for incentives and the expansion project must exceed $30 million and host one or more "premier events" not previously held in Kentucky.

Adkins said more details of the proposal must be worked out, including what the cap should be on the incentives. He said he expects to file the legislation on Monday.

Beshear and Speedway founder Jerry Carroll were guests of Smith's last May at the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. At the time, Smith had just bought the Kentucky track, which is halfway between Cincinnati and Louisville, with the intention of holding a Sprint Cup race there.