CONCORD, N.C. (AP) - Kentucky Speedway moved a step closer to
landing a coveted Sprint Cup Series race when Speedway Motorsports
Inc. on Thursday added the track to its growing portfolio of tracks.
Just how SMI owner Bruton Smith gets that race date remains unclear, but he said he wants a Cup race in Kentucky in 2009.
Smith has battled for years with NASCAR over the awarding of Cup
races, and Kentucky already has unsuccessfully sued to get its own
Track officials filed an antitrust lawsuit in 2005 against NASCAR and Smith rival International Speedway Inc., but it was dismissed in January. It's now on appeal in U.S. District Court.
There was immediate speculation Smith has his eye on Pocono
Raceway, which currently has two Cup races. If he purchased that
track, he could move one or both its dates to any of his eight tracks.
"I'm always interested in speedways," Smith said. "But I don't know if it's for sale. If you tell me it's for sale, I'll make a call tomorrow."
NASCAR already has started lining up the 2009 calendar, and
spokesman Ramsey Poston said "it's getting fairly late in the year" to open talks with a new speedway. Pocono is independently owned by Joseph and Rose Mattioli.
"I wouldn't speculate on them having a date or not having a date," Poston said. "It's certainly been a very good track; it's been part of NASCAR's history and heritage. It certainly has served that region of the country very well."
Mattioli was not immediately available for comment.
One way or another, it's clear Smith will find a Cup date to give to Kentucky. The track, about halfway between Cincinnati and Louisville in northern Kentucky, regularly hosts NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series, Indy Racing League and ARCA events, but has lobbied unsuccessfully since it opened in 2000 to bring a Cup event to the 1.5-mile oval.
Track ownership sued, alleging NASCAR and ISC worked together to create an unfair monopoly and prevent Kentucky from securing a Cup
General manager Mark Cassis told The Associated Press last year
the speedway always intended to host a Cup race regardless of the
outcome of the lawsuit.
"For us to say that we're going to continue operating without a Cup race is not in our plans," he said. "That's what this track was built for, and we're not going to take our eyes off it."
Smith said he's not a part of the lawsuit, which is currently on appeal, and former track owner Jerry Carroll said the suit will continue. Carroll accepted a position to stay with the speedway after the sale.
"The litigation will continue on as long as we think that there is an opportunity to do something right, get an even playing field," Carroll said.
With crowds of more than 70,000, the track is currently the largest venue that hosts a Nationwide event but doesn't have a Cup race. Smith said he immediately plans to add 50,000 more seats to make it more suitable for a Cup race.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)