Speedway Surged During 2004 Season
Kentucky Speedway celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2004 with new attendance and speed records, race milestones and important sponsorship announcements as the $152-million facility expanded its schedule to five event weekends for the first time.
Record crowds for the annual NASCAR Busch Series and Indy Racing League IndyCar Series races helped increase race attendance 4.6 percent from 2003 to 270,844 while an estimated four-day crowd of 121,000 for the Country Stampede music festival helped push the all-time event attendance past the 1.5 million mark.
On June 19, the NASCAR Busch Series "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" event brought in a track record 72,312 fans to eclipse the previous series and track record set in 2002 by 1,013 fans. The IRL IndyCar Series set its new track attendance record on August 15 when 61,885 were on hand for "The Belterra Casino Indy 300." The previous IRL record stood since 2000.
Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series, NASCAR Busch Series and American Speed Association National Tour drivers demonstrated that they have found the preferred line around the 1.5-mile tri-oval by establishing new track qualifying records.
Travis Gregg established the quickest of the new records on August 13 when he took the pole for the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series "Kentucky 100" with a 190.398-mph lap to better the previous record of 183.774 mph set by Mark Taylor in 2003. NASCAR Busch Series driver Martin Truex, Jr., set a new track qualifying record for his series with a 180.102-mph lap on June 18. The Dale Earnhardt Inc., protégé shattered the previous mark of 176.384 mph set by Stacy Compton in 2003 on a day when 13 series drivers qualified ahead of old track record. The ASA National Tour made its first appearance at Kentucky Speedway in May and was back for a second time in September when Jay Middleton established a new speedway qualifying record with a 171.265-mph lap. He broke the three-month-old benchmark established by Stephen Leicht at 169.977 mph.
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers may have followed suit in July, but qualifying was cancelled due to adverse weather. When the skies cleared, teams took to the tri-oval for a final practice session in which 18 drivers turned laps faster than the 169.641 mph qualifying record set by Jon Wood in 2003. Eventual race champion Bobby Hamilton, Sr., led the way by posting the fastest lap of the session at 172.772 mph.
Increased speeds led to several magical milestones at Kentucky Speedway in 2004. ASA driver Scott Lagasse, Jr., won the closest race in speedway history when he nipped Wade Day by .014 of a second at the finish line on May 7. Kyle Busch became the first driver to score back-to-back wins in consecutive starts in different race series at the speedway with his NASCAR Busch Series win on June 19. Busch won his first race Kentucky Speedway on May 10, 2003 in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. Bobby Hamilton achieved a third milestone when he visited Victory Lane following the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series "Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers" on July 10. With the win, Hamilton and his son, Bobby Hamilton, Jr., became the only father-son combination to drive to wins at Kentucky Speedway. The younger Hamilton won the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo." IRL IndyCar Series race winner Adrian Fernandez delivered two more milestones on August 16 when he won the "Belterra Casino Indy 300" by .0581 of a second over race pole winner Buddy Rice. The margin of victory was the ninth-closest in series history and fourth-closest in speedway history.
The Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers, Ford Racing, Domino's Pizza, Coca-Cola and WLWT-TV in Cincinnati made headlines at the speedway in 2004 with important marketing announcements. The Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers and Ford Racing announced an extension of their title sponsorship for the annual NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event through 2007. "The Official Pizza of NASCAR" became "The Official Pizza of Kentucky Speedway" through 2007 when Domino's Pizza signed on as a new corporate partner. Coca-Cola also announced an extension of its partnership and will continue its reign as "The Official Soft Drink of Kentucky Speedway" through the next three years. WLWT-TV, a Hearst-Argyle NBC affiliate, continued its support of the speedway by signing on as the title sponsor for the July 2005 pole night that will feature a 150-mile ARCA RE/MAX Series race and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying.
The speedway will announce its full 2005 schedule in the coming weeks.
~ Kentucky Speedway ~