Kentucky Speedway

Northern Kentucky anticipates benefits of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race

SPARTA — A couple hundred people live on the lush, rolling land of this city, which sits on railroad tracks straddling Gallatin and Owen counties and serves as home to Kentucky Speedway.

On Tuesday, Natalie Smith, an employee of Sparta Quik Stop near the speedway, sounded thrilled about a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race coming to the racetrack July 9, 2011.

When asked about it, Smith screamed with delight: "Yay! I've been waiting for this forever."

"Thank you, NASCAR, and thank you, Bruton Smith," she said, referring to the chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc.

The 400-mile race could generate $150 million for Kentucky, Gov. Steve Beshear said at a news conference Tuesday announcing the race.

Beshear said the event should create both permanent and temporary jobs in the area as the track makes improvements, adding 50,000 seats, 200 acres of camping space and more restrooms and elevators.

The governor also expects that businesses, including hotels, will want to move into the region.

Smith said the Atlanta Motor Speedway is worth about $455 million a year to Georgia. He said he thinks Kentucky Speedway will be worth about half that amount to Kentucky.

Gallatin County Judge-Executive Kenny French said residents of the area have waited for the Cup since the track was built in 2000. He said the county has the infrastructure to handle 140,000 people visiting the area.

French said plans will be made to take advantage of the impact the race will have on tourism and to show visitors the "southern hospitality that we're known for here in Gallatin County."

French said there is minimal hotel space in the immediate area, but he said Kentucky Speedway visitors will be able to find plenty of hotel rooms across the region.

Carolyn Keith, judge-executive of Owen County, said her county usually only gets "drive through" traffic during Speedway events, and some businesses such as gas stations and grocery stores might get more business. Keith said she did not anticipate the race having a huge economic impact on Owen County.

"But I'm very excited about it for the Northern Kentucky area," Keith said.

Keith also said some people may not visit Owen County because it is a dry county.

Cincinnati, less than an hour away, might see some benefits. Mayor Mark Mallory said he was excited about the national spotlight the event will bring.

Sharon Mayhew of Warsaw, who was having coffee Tuesday at a restaurant in Glencoe, about 6 miles from Sparta, said the Cup would be good for businesses, but added that traffic might become a headache for locals.

At Rick's First and Last Tavern in Sparta, Johnny Cummins said there's plenty to do in the area surrounding the Speedway — for example, there are at least five golf courses. Cummins, who lives near Fort Mitchell, also mentioned the scenery and welcoming residents.

"When people start coming to this area instead of just driving by, they'll realize how nice people are," Cummins said.