Kentucky Speedway

Ky. Speedway could be getting Sprint Cup race

CONCORD, N.C. — Speedway Motorsports Inc. officials said Monday they have asked NASCAR to add Kentucky to the 2010 Sprint Cup Series schedule.

SMI chairman Bruton Smith is willing to give up a race date at one of his seven other facilities to get Kentucky on the schedule. He would not reveal which track he is considering, and SMI president Marcus Smith said no decision has been made on which track would lose a date if NASCAR adds Kentucky to its 36-race schedule.

"We've done everything we need to make sure Kentucky is not out of play in 2010," Marcus Smith said. "It's sort of a chess game from here."

SMI agreed to pay $78.3 million last year for the track located in Sparta, which currently hosts a NASCAR second-tier Nationwide Series race but has been unsuccessful in landing a coveted Sprint Cup date.

Kentucky's former ownership group filed a 2005 antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. over Kentucky's failure to secure a Cup race. The suit was dismissed in early 2008, but the case is on appeal.

NASCAR has said it will not consider Kentucky for a race until the suit is dropped, and Bruton Smith said he's been unsuccessful in trying to persuade the group to drop the appeal.

Bruton Smith said he spent the weekend at the Kentucky Derby, hinting that the appeal may have been discussed.

"As we have consistently said, no request will be considered until the pending litigation is resolved," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said in an e-mail. "Furthermore, the window for realignment requests is rapidly closing."

Poston would not reveal that deadline. Last year, NASCAR ruled out Kentucky for the 2009 Sprint Cup schedule in late May.

Kentucky is the eighth NASCAR-sanctioned track in SMI's portfolio, but the only one without a Cup race. With seating for 68,000 fans, it's currently the largest venue that hosts a Nationwide race but doesn't have a Cup date.

SMI has signed off on a $75 million expansion it hopes will make the track worthy of a Cup race. The expansion will add 50,000 seats and an infield area catering to motor homes that would accommodate up to 600 vehicles.

SMI also will build new restrooms, concession stands and souvenir shops.

Speculation has put Atlanta Motor Speedway at the top of the list of SMI tracks that could lose a date to accommodate Kentucky, but Marcus Smith said it would be wrong to assume that track has already been selected.

Last year, SMI agreed to a three-track swapping of dates that moved its fall race up to the more coveted Labor Day weekend slot. It's assumed the race will not be plagued by the same weather issues that made Atlanta a difficult October/November sell, and its new holiday weekend date will attract race fans who traditionally spent Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway before that track lost the date to California.

Atlanta's spring race is still plagued by spotty weather and sagging attendance, but a straight swap of that date with Kentucky would not work because early March is not ideal conditions for a race in the Bluegrass state.

Bruton Smith dismissed speculation that his Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., would take over Atlanta's spring date and Kentucky would assume Infineon's late June spot on the schedule.

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