News & Media

Kentucky Speedway buys property, has a plan

August 27, 2011, Dave Rodman,

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger on Saturday afternoon confirmed that the Speedway Motorsports Inc. facility in Sparta, Ky., had purchased a "very sizeable piece" of property adjacent to the track.

Simendinger was at Bristol Motor Speedway, a sister SMI track, for Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race. The Associated Press reported the track had purchased a 219-acre piece of property not far from the facility.

Triumph, travails

The first Cup race at Kentucky was a huge deal. But as David Caraviello writes, it's too bad so many people endured so much misery trying to see it.

The track held its first Sprint Cup race on July 9 and experienced a lack of parking and overwhelming traffic congestion during the event. It's believed the tract of land, which the Cincinnati Enquirer reported was purchased for $1.5 million from owner Jo Wischer this week, will be used to alleviate those problems.

"The only thing that I can confirm is that we've bought a piece of land [and] the details of it will come out next week," Simendinger said.

Speedway officials had blamed part of the problem at the Quaker State 400 race on parking lots reaching capacity faster than anticipated when more than 107,000 fans converged on the venue. The speedway has 10 parking lots that hold 33,000 cars.

Saturday, Simendinger said part of the event's trouble came from un-ticketed patrons coming, just to be part of the experience, a la a rock festival like Woodstock. The purchase was the first step in the track's rebound.

"We've done exactly what we said we needed to do," Simendinger said. "The first thing we needed to do was to make things right with the fans, and we've been doing that with our ticket exchange program, which I'm happy to report has been going great.

"I'm also happy to report that there's a whole lot of people that are choosing to come back to Kentucky Speedway next year, which is great. The second thing is that we committed to making sure that this whole thing would get straightened out for next year.

"So we're sitting here, what -- a month-and-a-half later. And we've already acquired a piece of property. It's not like we've contracted for a piece of property, we've acquired the property. So, to identify it, negotiate it, put it under contract and get it closed as quickly as we have, I think you can see the level of commitment that [SMI chairman] Bruton Smith has.

Simendinger said he was "gratified but not surprised at all" during the event's recap, considering the numbers of people that attended and what they spent.

"The numbers that we've got in," Simendinger said. "They spent a lot of money and they had a great time -- it was a fantastic show that weekend, all the way around except the traffic issues. We've got to get that straightened out and that's what we're committed to do and we're working to do."

Simendinger said the speedway has been having "excellent" dialogue with the state of Kentucky about working to rectify the traffic issues.

"The whole process, between ourselves, NASCAR and the state has been very collaborative," Simendinger said. "Everybody realizes the huge potential that we have, everybody wants to make it right and it's gone really, really well.

"I'm excited with what we have to announce and it's fun to put the thing together. It's disheartening when something doesn't go the way that you had hoped for it to go. But it was also race No. 1 in a long series of races that's going to be going on at Kentucky Speedway.

"And we can't lose sight of that; lose sight of the potential and what we're building there."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.