Pedley: Summer Of Change Continues
NASCAR’s mid-summer burst of news will continue today with press conferences about racing in Kansas City, Southern California and Kentucky.
Also in the wind is possible word on where driver Kasey Kahne will land for the 2011 Sprint Cup season.
Barring a nuclear surprise, the only drama surrounding the Kentucky and Kansas City announcements are the dates the races awarded to those tracks will fall upon.
In Kansas City, track and International Speedway officials have been tight-lipped about the date of the second date for Kansas City, which was promised to Kansas official in exchange for rights to build a casino in Turn Two at the track.
That casino was awarded, is under construction and will be quite nice as it sits on elevated ground above the Turn Two, so…
Track president Pat Warren refused to comment on the date late Monday.
But, one source close to the story said the second Kansas date will be in June.
That would mean at least two other changes to the schedule as Pocono, Michigan, Infineon and New Hampshire hosted June dates this season while the Auto Club Speedway in California date being “donated” to Kansas is its February race.
In Kentucky, it is expected that it will be announced that Kentucky Speedway in Sparta will get the spring race which Atlanta announced last week it is giving up.
Both tracks are owned by Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Atlanta, SMI obviously believes, is under performing a the gate. Then there is the fact that Smith just paid many millions of dollars for Kentucky.
On Monday, it was announced that the Sprint Cup race in Joliet, Ill. would be moved. Beginning in 2011, Chicagoland Speedway will be home for the first race of the 10-race, 12-driver playoff known as the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
During a teleconference, NASCAR and Chicagoland officials, along with Cup drivers David Reutimann and Kevin Harvick, extolled the virtues of kicking off the Chase near Chicago. They pointed out that the move would put NASCAR’s second biggest media market into the Chase.
Thing was, during the teleconference, not one question was asked by a member of the Chicago media. Interesting.
What was brought up by outsiders were questions about how ticket sales for a race would go if the event – which is being moved from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon in September – would go if the Bears were playing that day and/or if the Cubs and/or White Sox were in a pennant race.
Also yet to be determined is the fate of racing at New Hampshire, which has hosted the Chase-opening event since the playoff system was implemented in 2004.
The Kahne saga picked up steam over the last 48 hours and the resulting word there is that he is this close to signing a deal with Red Bull Racing.
Kahne, who is currently driving for Richard Petty Motorsports, has signed to drive for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. That has left a big hole in his daytimer – a 12 month hole, as in all of 2011 – as Hendrick already has four drivers under contract for next season and none are going anywhere.
Mark Martin has dug his heels in on talk that he retire or move on a year early and hand the wheel (yes, they come off the steering column quite easily) to Kahne next season.
Speculation had been that Stewart Haas Racing – which gets engines and technical support from Hendrick – would field a car for Kahne.
Unable to put that together, eyes have turned to Red Bull.
Red Bull is run by Jay Frye, who is an old Hendrick guy and still a very good friend of Mr. H’s.
The problem there is that Red Bull uses Toyota engines while Hendrick has a Chevy deal. And in racing, yes, that is a big deal.
Both Rick Hendrick and Frye have been silent on the subject but that has not slowed the digging process.
So, keep it right here today. The news should be interesting, if not terribly surprising.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments