WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | Sports

Smith willing to spend $70 million to land Cup race by 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Speedway Motorsports Inc. owner Bruton
Smith plans to spend upward of $70 million to help Kentucky
Speedway land a lucrative NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
The Kentucky state legislature is ready to help offset some of
the cost, if Smith can finally end the track's decade-long pursuit
of a date on the crowded Cup calendar.
Lawmakers are working on an amendment to the Kentucky Tourism
Development Act that would allow SMI to recoup 25 percent of the
expansion costs over a 20-year period through sales tax revenue.
The proposal comes with a caveat: no Cup race, no tax break.
It's a deal Smith can live with, mainly because he's planning on
having a Cup date at the 1.5-mile tri-oval located halfway between
Louisville and Cincinnati in 2010.
Smith said it's "extremely" likely the track, which SMI
purchased last fall, would have a Cup race next year. Landing a
date could produce up to $200 million in economic impact in the
area.
Just how that gets done is uncertain. NASCAR was unwilling to
grant a Cup date to the previous owners, who became so frustrated
they filed an antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and International
Speedway Corp., with SMI being named as a coconspirator.
The case was dismissed last year, though the lawsuit is
currently on appeal. Until the case is resolved, there is no chance
NASCAR would award a Cup race to the track.
"As we have said consistently there will be no consideration
for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series date at Kentucky Speedway until the
pending lawsuit against NASCAR, ISC and SMI is resolved," said
NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston.
Former track owner Jerry Carroll, now a consultant with the
track, said there are no plans to abandon the lawsuit.
There are other avenues. Smith could either move a date from
another SMI track or purchase another Cup track and then move its
date to Kentucky. He didn't rule out either option.
"Maybe and maybe," Smith said. "I always keep my eye on the
ball because that's important. If something is available then I
need to be there."
SMI owns several other NASCAR Cup tracks, including circuits in
Las Vegas, Atlanta and Charlotte. He's spent lavishly to upgrade
the facilities there and turned them into cash cows. He'd like to
do the same at Kentucky, which already hosts NASCAR Trucks and
Nationwide Series races as well as an IRL event.
Smith said the plans are to create space on the infield for
motorhomes, triple the number of restrooms and alleviate some of
the parking problems that have plagued the track since it opened in
2000.
To get a Cup date Smith said the track would have to add at
least 55,000 seats to bring capacity to around 120,000.
Doing so will cost money, which is where the state comes in. The
proposed amendment would create a provision for "Legacy Expansion
Projects" designed to allow major projects that are committed to
substantial expansions to recover incentives.
The proposal states the project must cost at least $30 million,
attract 65,000 or more spectators and be broadcast nationally.
While the amendment is geared toward getting a Cup date, it also
opens the door for other events down the road said Gov. Steve
Beshear.
"We think that with this step that we can ... provide the
mechanism and the vehicle to where Mr. Smith and his company will
make a major investment in Kentucky Speedway and that as a result
of that investment bring a top-notch race series to that
speedway," Beshear said.
The amendment also extends the amount of time a business is
allowed to recover 25 percent of its investment from 10 years to
20.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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