NASCAR & Auto Racing

Report: Kentucky Speedway getting Sprint Cup race

LOUISVILLE — Kentucky Speedway will get a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in 2011, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The 1.5-mile tri-oval halfway between Louisville and Cincinnati will host NASCAR's top series in early July. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been announced. A news conference is scheduled Aug. 10 at the track, with Gov. Steve Beshear and three-time Cup champion and Owensboro native Darrell Waltrip expected to attend.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. purchased the racetrack from the original ownership group in 2008. SMI owner Bruton Smith said his main goal was to bring the track a long-coveted Cup date.

Sources told the Charlotte Observer on Sunday that NASCAR will allow SMI to move one of its current races to the Sparta track. It is uncertain which track would lose a race, but speculation has centered on Atlanta Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, both of which host two Cup races a season.

Smith has been coy about his intentions but, during a Cup visit to New Hampshire in June, he told the Concord Monitor, "This is the hardest place to get something done. By far," referring to a lack of cooperation from local and state officials.

SMI also owns Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Infineon Raceway. Kentucky Speedway's original owners filed an antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. in 2005, contending that they tried to exclude the track from the Cup Series.

Smith called the court case a major stumbling block and said he was relieved when it ended this year. Smith had no immediate comment Sunday but said before last week's race at Indianapolis that he'd like to have a Cup race at all of SMI's NASCAR-sanctioned tracks.

The only one that lacks a Cup date now is Kentucky's, though Smith said he's optimistic there would be plenty of time to get the facility ready for a Cup race.

Kentucky already hosts NASCAR Nationwide and Truck Series events, and an IndyCar race. Plans are in place to expand seating from 65,000 to about 100,000.

NASCAR officials had no comment Sunday, but CEO Brian France said before last week's race in Indianapolis that the series was mulling "impactful" changes to its 2011 schedule.

"There will be some changes as they look now," France said. "That could not quite materialize, but I sense it will, and we'll have some pretty impactful changes to the schedule that I think will be good for NASCAR fans."

NASCAR is expected to announce its 2011 schedule by Labor Day, Sept. 6. A race at Kentucky Speedway would be the first track added to the Cup schedule since the 2001 season, when Chicagoland Speedway and Kansas Speedway became regular race stops.

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