Kentucky Speedway

Ex-Ky. Speedway owners asked to drop suit

DARLINGTON, S.C. — The owner of Kentucky Motor Speedway called on the track's founding group to drop the antitrust lawsuit that's preventing him from adding the facility to next year's Sprint Cup Series schedule.

"They have a moral obligation to their state to get out of the way," Bruton Smith said Friday. "NASCAR understands that I will bring them an event from another speedway, but these people need to get out of the way. They have an obligation to Kentucky to do that."

Speedway Motorsports Inc. recently asked NASCAR to consider Kentucky for the 2010 Cup schedule, but the sanctioning body will not consider any proposals until the former owners drop their antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp., its sister company.

The 2005 suit stemmed from the group's unsuccessful bid to bring a coveted Cup race to Kentucky. The suit was dismissed in early 2008, but the case is on appeal.

Smith traveled to the Kentucky Derby last weekend to urge the group to drop the appeal, but he said "nothing much was accomplished" because there are two staunch holdouts.

Smith identified the two holdouts as Richard Duchossios and Richard Farmer, two of the five listed principals in the original ownership group. Duchossios is the chairman at Arlington Park, a horse racing track near Chicago; Farmer is the chairman of Cintas Corp.

Because the original ownership group sold the Sparta track to Smith last year for $78.3 million, it stands to gain nothing if the track finally does get on the Cup schedule.

But Smith wondered what the businessmen stand to gain by moving forward with the suit.

"It's already been dismissed once," he said. "I guess they want something for their aggravation in dealing with NASCAR all those years. And I suppose they have lawyers who tell them they will win the appeal. I don't know. They need to just stop standing in the way because the state of Kentucky has spent a lot of money to help that track."

The group spent $152 million to build the facility, which opened in 2000 and hosts an annual second-tier NASCAR Nationwide Series event. At seating for 68,000 fans, it's currently the largest venue that hosts a Nationwide race but doesn't have a Cup date.

Smith said he has roughly two to three weeks to resolve the lawsuit conflict and give NASCAR a 2010 proposal for Kentucky. NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said earlier this week the sanctioning body has an approaching deadline in mind for beginning next year's scheduling process.

NASCAR last year eliminated Kentucky from 2009 consideration in late May.

"I want to be respectful of NASCAR's time element," Smith said. "But we do need a decision and I'm siding with NASCAR on this one."

Smith said he "probably would not" have purchased the track if he had known the former ownership group would have posed such a roadblock to getting the track a Cup race.

Kentucky is the eighth NASCAR-sanctioned track in Speedway Motorsports Inc.'s portfolio, but the only one without a Cup race.

"I didn't expect this, the problem of not being able to just go ahead and move a race there," he said.

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 Smith has refused to reveal which of his tracks he is targeting.