By admin | May 29, 2008
By Richard Allen
Several major announcements came out of the two weeks the Sprint Cup Series spent in Charlotte but perhaps the biggest will prove to be that Speedway Motorsports, Inc. recently completed a deal to purchase the Kentucky Speedway.
This begins yet another new chapter in the history of the 1Â½ mile facility located about half way between Cincinnati, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky. The track, which opened in 2000, has gone through a tumultuous history in its attempt to obtain a Sprint Cup Series date.
Perhaps, after lawsuits and attempts to purchase other tracks, the solution may have presented itself with the SMI takeover. However, no new dates will be created just because the race promoting conglomerate now controls the track. If the speedway is to finally host a Sprint Cup race another track will have to lose a date. And, it will have to be an SMI track that has to give up a race.
The question is, which SMI track is most vulnerable? A quick look reveals one speedway that may be in serious jeopardy of having a race taken away.
Atlanta Motor Speedway has consistently been the companyâ€™s poorest performer. A track which typically provides outstanding racing does not provide outstanding ticket sales. Last fall, just before the cars rolled off pit road to start the race, Matt Kenseth was heard to say over his in car radio, â€œItâ€™s a shame they canâ€™t sell this place out as good as the racing is here.â€
Among the other SMI properties, none seems to be having similar issues. Las Vegas only has one date and sells it out. SMI has spent large sums of money renovating the road course in Sonoma so it looks to keep its one date. Texas, Charlotte and Bristol would likely not even be considered for losing a date. Recent addition to the SMI fold, New Hampshire, could be a possibility but its ticket sales are typically far better than Atlanta.
SMI Chairman Bruton Smith has recently shown interest in purchasing either or both of the tracks in Dover and Pocono. The Pocono ownership has said they are not interested in selling. Dover ownership has not been so quick to deny the possibility of a sale. Obviously, any new purchase by SMI could play into this situation.
Atlanta, California Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway have recently been given the go ahead to enact a three way date switch which will take effect in 2009. After moving to the Labor Day weekend, if AMS cannot sell out its grandstands it is likely that one of its dates will be given to the Kentucky track.
No inside information is really needed. SMI likely did not buy the track without the intention of bringing it into the Sprint Cup fold. No other SMI track does as poorly as Atlanta and NASCAR is not going to create any new dates.
NASCAR has said that the KentuckyÂ track will not be added to the 2009 schedule which gives AMS one more year to sell some tickets.
If you are a fan of the Atlanta Motor Speedway the writing is on the wall. Either the track will do better or another speedway will get a chance.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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