My old Kentucky home
Most of you know that I was born and raised in Owensboro, Ky. Most
people also know that I am a diehard Kentucky Wildcats fan,
particularly when it comes to basketball. Boy, do we have a great
team this year with a great coach. We got the best freshman in the
country and what an incredible turnaround for that program. This
team looks to be one of the best that Kentucky has ever had.
We know that basketball is probably the biggest sport in
Kentucky, but that could all change in a very short period of time.
We also know that Kentucky is famous for its horses, but the state
might soon become even more famous for its horsepower.
Most of you also know that I was heavily involved since the
beginning with the development, building and promotion of Kentucky
Speedway. It was a perfect site on roughly 1,200 acres for a
racetrack, and I was really excited about being a part of it from
the first shovel of dirt being turned. You had the interstate right
next to the track plus a community that was passionate about stock
car racing. Heck, if you flew over the track in a helicopter, you
would see the track is D-shaped and the garage is W-shaped. That
wasn’t by accident.
NASCAR was gracious enough to move both a Camping World
Series and Nationwide Series race there. So the track was off and
running. But let’s be clear here: There was never any guarantee of
a Cup race being awarded to Kentucky. In fact, talk like that was
discouraged. Sure, there was the possibility for associating with
another track owner and possible realignment of dates might bring a
That was encouraging, but unfortunately never materialized.
Now the difference between the Texas lawsuit and the Kentucky
lawsuit was as different as night and day. Texas was promised a
date. The date Texas got didn’t come from NASCAR. It came after
owner Bruton Smith, along with New Hampshire track owner Bob Bahre,
bought the North Wilkesboro track. They each took one of those two
dates. So Bruton opened Texas on the old North Wilkesboro date.
But Bruton never got the date he was promised from NASCAR,
and that led to a lawsuit in which Bruton prevailed. Now Kentucky,
on the other hand, was never promised anything. While assured there
might be a possibility of a date dependent on a lot of factors,
Kentucky was clearly told not to get its hopes up.
I always was of the belief that “If you build it, they will
come.” That track lacked for nothing. When it was planned out and
built, it was for NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. From parking to the
traffic flow to all the amenities, it was all with the thought of
Cup racing in the future. That was the plan from Day One.
The track has a lot of grip. If you ask the drivers, they
will tell you they love racing at Kentucky Speedway especially
because of the multiple grooves. The only issue that arose was the
track surface, but the owners didn’t hesitate to fix it any time
there was a problem. Now, it’s just so smooth and has a ton of
grip. That leads to a lot of exciting side-by-side racing.
The grandstands are primo. There are plenty of bathrooms,
which was a big complaint about tracks back in the day. The suites
are spectacular. There’s even an Outback Steakhouse restaurant in
the facility to provide catering for the suites. There’s even a
statue behind the backstretch by the souvenir store dedicated to
There’s simply nothing wrong with the track other than it
didn’t have a Cup date.
Unfortunately, time continued to pass, and despite the
tremendous turnouts by fans at the Nationwide, Truck series and
even IRL events, it became clear a Cup race was not on the horizon.
That became very discouraging after a while.
I was put in a very bad situation when the owners of Kentucky
Speedway sued NASCAR over the process of how dates are given to
racetracks. It just seems to me that nothing good ever comes from
lawsuits. When I learned the track could be bought, I was able to
get in touch with Bruton Smith and he went to Kentucky Speedway and
made a deal to buy it.
Bruton’s plan was to have a race there in 2010, but the track
owners refused to drop their lawsuit against NASCAR. A three-judge
federal appeals court panel rejected the claims by the track owners
last Friday. They said the owners failed to prove NASCAR and
International Speedway Corporation worked together to keep Kentucky
from being added to the Sprint Cup schedule. So I think this is
finally the end.
Hopefully it is, because then Bruton could move a race there
in 2011. When that happens, I just have to say it will be another
Red Letter day in DW’s life. All I ever wanted for that area of
northern Kentucky and southern Ohio was a great facility that the
community could be proud of and the jobs it would create.
Everything is in place to have one of the finest facilities
in the country with some of the most passionate NASCAR fans you
will ever see. I can’t wait to see the green flag fall for the very
first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at my old Kentucky home, which in this
case is Kentucky Speedway.