Defending ARCA RE/MAX Series Champion Frank Kimmel joined officials from Kentucky Speedway and the State of Kentucky to officially open the new $12.3 million "Kentucky Speedway" Exit 55 off of Interstate 71 today.

Kentucky Gov. Paul E. Patton, Kentucky Transportation Secretary James Codell, Kentucky Speedway Chairman and Co-Owner Jerry Carroll and Judge George Zubaty also were present to discuss how the interchange will help manage the traffic flow around the speedway during race events and bring economic opportunity to Gallatin Co.

The interchange and a short portion of the US-42 Connector, Kentucky Route 1039, is the first of two sections that will complete the north-south route from the interstate to Markland Dam. Rte. 1039 is expected to be completed next year. Both improvements will be in use during Kentucky Speedway's opening weekend, May 10-11.

"Although the immediate need, obviously, is to alleviate traffic congestion into and out of Kentucky Speedway, our long-range goal is to improve the overall transportation network for Gallatin Co.," he said. "In the process, we should see a tremendous improvement in tourism and economic development opportunities for this area."

In addition to Ky. Rte. 1039, other improvements made recently around the speedway area include a widening of I-71 to six lanes. Shoulders have already been widened along a portion of the interstate north of Kentucky Speedway and improvements have been made to Ky. Rte. 35.

"We're delighted and very proud to be among the businesses that will benefit from the new interchange and state route," Carroll said. "Both will help facilitate the ingress and egress at Kentucky Speedway and that was greatly needed due to our earlier success. This will be another reason that I am confident we will reach our ultimate goal - NASCAR Winston Cup Racing in Kentucky."

Regional traffic management systems, including ARTIMIS in Northern Kentucky and TRIMARC in Louisville, Ky., also will be used to help inform travelers of detours and travel conditions throughout each of the speedway's four race weekends this spring and summer. Motorists also can obtain traffic information on their radio dials at 530 AM and the new Gallatin Co. Traffic Information System (TIS) at 1620 AM.

In addition to working together to supply information to the Gallatin Co. TIS System. ARTIMIS and Kentucky Speedway will begin integrating traffic information immediately. ARTIMIS will add speedway traffic information to its 511 Traveler Information Hotline in addition to including up-to-date traffic information on its interstate signage throughout Greater Cincinnati and Louisville. ARTIMIS and Kentucky Speedway also will link their Web sites to include up-to-date traffic information through both text & video.

The completion of the interchange coincides well with the opening of the speedway's 2002 race season May 10-11. The action begins at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, May 10, when "The Auto Body Panels Short Track Special" showcases the USAC National Midget Car Series, ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series and Baby Grand Series racing on the speedway's paved quarter-mile track. The inaugural "Channel 5-155" ARCA RE/MAX Series race takes the green flag at Kentucky Speedway at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 11. The evening features a concert by country singer Chely Wright. Tickets are still available for both days of family fun and entertainment. Fans can phone 888-652-RACE or visit www.kentuckyspeedway.com for ticket information.