Kentucky Speedway™ Sets Greater Cincinnati Attendance Record In Successful Second Season Overall Attendance Increases 20 Percent In 2001
Repeat champions, record-setting series performances and close finishes characterized the first full racing season and second year of operation at Kentucky Speedway.
Strengthened by strong market support for the inaugural NASCAR Busch Series race in June, attendance for speedway race only events grew 20 percent to more than 360,000 compared to 2000 totals of 300,000. The "Outback Steakhouse 300" drew 70,338 fans, the largest crowd of the year, and became the largest attended single sporting event in Greater Cincinnati history.
"We are continuing to build a foundation here for a complete motor sports package," Kentucky Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Mark F. Cassis said. "There are tremendous motor sports fans in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana who enjoy watching a variety of racing series. We're grateful they have come out each weekend and contributed to an excellent first full season of racing. We are proving everyday through this performance that this marketplace can and will support motorsports."
Two events saw repeat winners. Frank Kimmel, of nearby Jeffersonville, Ind., in the No. 46 Advanced Auto Parts/Pork Producers Ford won both ARCA races and Cincinnati native Jeff Fultz captured both NASCAR Gatorade All Pro events on his "home" track. Buddy Lazier in the No. 91 Tae-Bo-Coors Light/Delta Faucet racing machine successfully defended his "Belterra Casino Indy 300" title.
Series points leaders owned Kentucky Speedway. Kevin Harvick in the No. 2 AC Delco Chevrolet led 130 laps while taking the initial "Outback Steakhouse 300" NASCAR Busch Series title and Scott Riggs drove his No. 2 Team ASE Racing Dodge to victory in the "Kroger 225" NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event. Harvick added an interesting footnote to his performance by boarding a plane to Pocono, Pa. after his race. He competed in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series "Pocono 500" the next day.
The most hotly contested event on the speedway's 1.5-mile tri-oval proved to be the "Belterra Casino Indy 300," as five drivers exchanged the lead seven times. Buddy Lazier and Robbie Buhl exchanged the lead four times in the last 20 laps with Lazier winning after Buhl ran out of fuel on the second last lap.
The average speed of the "Belterra Casino Indy 300" was 174.910 mph, the fastest race this season and in speedway history. The race also was the second fastest in Indy Racing Northern Light Series history. The fastest race average speed in series history was 175.276 mph, recorded by Scott Goodyear at Texas Motor Speedway in Oct. 2000.
Kentucky Speedway made more racing history during its NASCAR Goody's Dash race in June when Robert Huffman drove his White House Apple Juice/TRD Toyota to victory in the "Kentucky 100." The win was the first for a Toyota engine in the 26-year history of the series. Huffman also can take credit for winning the closest race in the short history of the track after he came from behind to beat Cam Strader by one-quarter of a car length, officially 0.024 seconds.
Not to be left out of the record books, Gatorade All Pro, NASCAR Touring Series driver Brian Smith also made series history by sitting on the pole for two events at Kentucky, setting new series track qualifying records each time. His most recent record stands at 156.109 mph, but Smith has yet to win in three starts at Kentucky.
Kentucky Speedway Remains A Popular Testing Venue For NASCAR Winston Cup Teams
NASCAR Winston Cup teams continue to make Kentucky Speedway their home for testing. Teams have tested or have booked to test almost 50 dates already this year. Among the NASCAR Winston Cup teams that have been at the track the most are PPI Motorsports, Petree, Evernham, Ultra Motorsports, Hendrick, Joe Gibbs Racing, Bill Davis Racing and Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
Waltrip Statue Dedication
One of the major events of the summer occurred during the NASCAR Busch Series weekend when the Darrell Waltrip Statue and Walkway were dedicated in front of the speedway's Fan Center. Among those joining Darrell & his wife Stevie for the ceremony were NASCAR President Mike Helton, Kentucky Speedway Chairman & Co-Owner Jerry Carroll, Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, Fox Sports' Jeff Hammond and Mike Joy, Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken and Cincinnati Bengals Running Back and "Outback Steakhouse 300" Grand Marshal Cory Dillon.
Hall Of Famer Grand Marshal Of Kroger 225
In July, Kentucky U.S. Senator Jim Bunning served as grand marshal of the Kroger 225 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. Bunning is no stranger to competition. Prior to his career in government, he spent 17 years in Major League Baseball. Bunning accumulated a record of achievement that won him a seat in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
It's An Event…Not Just A Race
The speedway continued its commitment to making each weekend a full-scale event. Kentucky built a synergy between music and racing each weekend. Country music superstar Brad Paisley entertained prior to the "Outback Steakhouse 300." Tim Rushlow, the former lead singer of Little Texas, and fellow country star Joe Diffie performed in July before the "Kroger 225," and Cincinnati based Blessid Union of Souls rocked the Indy Racing League Brunch of Champions in August. Other celebrities who appeared during speedway events were University of Kentucky Head Basketball Coach Tubby Smith, grand marshal of the "Belterra Casino Indy 300," and model Elaine Irwin Mellencamp, who dropped the green flag for the Belterra event.
Improving The Fans' Experience
An expanded shopping midway, hospitality and interactive area were also part of the Kentucky Speedway 2001 experience.
New for 2002
Kentucky Speedway will continue to make news in its "off" season by announcing infrastructure improvements around the speedway and its 2002 schedule. "Our off-season plans include completion of the new 1-71 interchange (one mile south of the current Sparta/Warsaw exit) and a new entering and exiting plan. We must and will do a better job of getting our fans in, parked and out of the speedway. This is our No. 1 priority, right beside continuing to work towards our ultimate goal - (NASCAR) Winston Cup Series racing in Kentucky," Cassis concluded.
Editor's Note: "Kentucky Speedway" please. Please refer to the facility as "Kentucky Speedway." "Kentucky Motor Speedway" is located in Wrightsville, Ky.