Battle For Sprint Cup Race Heats Up

SPARTA, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky Speedway will not have a NASCAR
Sprint Cup race in 2009, despite a change in ownership to Bruton
Smith, the Speedway Motorsports Inc. owner, announced Thursday
that he had purchased the Kentucky track, located halfway between
Cincinnati and Louisville, with the intention of having a Cup race
there next season.
But after a sanctioning meeting Friday, NASCAR officials said
it's too late to consider Kentucky for next season's schedule.
"The 2009 schedule will not include a Sprint Cup race in
Kentucky, regardless of ownership," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston
said. "I don't see any scenario where there will be a Sprint Cup
race there in '09."
Kentucky Speedway spokesman Tim Bray said Friday it would be
inappropriate for him to comment on the matter.
Speedway founder Jerry Carroll, in a written statement Friday
night, said: "Our group is confident that comments made by Bruton
Smith, and, our agreement, will continue to come to fruition."
Poston said NASCAR has yet to receive a formal request for a
race from SMI, which owns seven other NASCAR-sanctioned tracks.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Carroll were planning to meet
with Smith on Sunday during the running of the Coca-Cola 600 at
Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.
Also being considered for the 2009 Sprint Cup schedule is a
three-track swap of race dates. Atlanta would receive the Labor Day
race that's currently run in Fontana, Calif.; Fontana would receive
Talladega's fall race; and Talladega would receive Atlanta's fall
That move is designed to help Atlanta and Fontana, Calif., which
have struggled with weather problems on their original dates.
According to papers filed with the Securities and Exchange
Commission, Smith has not yet completed the speedway purchase, in
which he agreed to pay $78.3 million for the speedway that cost
$152 million to build.
There is a 90-day window, in which Smith can still walk away
from the deal.
The track 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.
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 has said he immediately plans to add 50,000 more seats
to make it more suitable for a Cup race.
The estimated economic impact that a Cup event would have on
northern Kentucky is expected to approach $200 million.
The lure of that big-ticket event was so high, the track's
ownership filed an antitrust lawsuit in 2005 against NASCAR and
International Speedway, alleging they worked together to create an
unfair monopoly and prevent Kentucky from securing a Cup race.
Earlier this year, the lawsuit was dismissed, but the speedway
has appealed.

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