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Sprint Cup Schedule Roundup: Two For Kansas Is Done Deal

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 10 2010

Kansas Speedway will host two Cup races per season beginning in 2011. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Kansas City, Kan. – It has long been known that Kansas Speedway would become a two-Sprint Cup track in 2011. Now it is known that the date of Kansas’ second race next season will be Sunday, June 5.

That was announced Tuesday morning at the speedway, which is located in Kansas City, Kan.

Also announced was that the Speedway’s fall date would move back one race to Oct. 9. That makes it the fourth race of the Chase playoff. It had been the third date in the Chase.

Though the Speedway has been granted permission to construct lights, neither race in 2011 will be a night race.

In attendance at the announcement were International Speedway Corp. CEO Lesa France Kennedy, track president Pat Warren and state and local government officials.

France Kennedy said, “We believe the region is more than capable of successfully sustaining two Cup events. The second Cup date at Kansas Speedway also will be great for the sport. The Kansas City region is an important one for the NASCAR race teams and our partners.”

Kansas Speedway opened in 2001. Since that time, it has been hosting just one Cup race a season – in late September or early October as part of the Chase.

Speedway officials have long expressed the desire to become a two-date track.

A couple of years ago, the speedway asked the State of Kansas permission to build a gambling casino at the track. During meetings with government officials, France Kennedy said that if awarded casino-building rights, she would petition NASCAR for that second date.

Because of the relationship she has with NASCAR – she is on the board of directors and is sister of NASCAR chairman Brian France – there was little doubt that a second date would be quickly secured once the casino projected was given final OK.

On Tuesday, construction crews and machinery in the Turn Two site of the casino served as backdrop for the announcement of the second date.

The June date awarded to Kansas will be “donated” by Auto Club Speedway, which is located in Fontana, Calif.

Auto Club has hosted two races a year since 2004. However, attendance at those races has been weak.

The race which Auto Club will yield is the one which has been held in February.

“Moving our Auto Club 500 event from February to March provides us the opportunity to show off the area’s beautiful ‘Chamber of Commerce’ weather,” said Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker.  “Our staff and the thousands of Southern California loyal race fans look forward to the return of NASCAR’s most talented drivers in both the Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series as well as Southern California’s own four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

“We remain committed to providing unforgettable experiences to our loyal fans and we will continue to look at ways to diversify our schedule, working diligently to add exciting events for 2011 and beyond.”

In other scheduling news:

Kentucky

Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chairman Bruton Smith couldn’t resist injecting a little humor into Tuesday’s major announcement at Kentucky Motor Speedway.

After being introduced by Kentucky native and former Sprint Cup champion Darrell Waltrip, the longtime racing promoter took the stage and addressed a large gathering of race fans and dignitaries, which included track founder Jerry Carroll, NASCAR’s Steve O’Donnell, a handful of politicians and driver Joey Logano.

“We’re here to announce we’re adding 50 miles to the truck race,” Smith said in a teasing manner. “Thank you for coming.”

After drawing a few chuckles, Smith looked over at New Hampshire Motor Speedway General Manager and said “that didn’t go over like I thought it would, Jerry (Gappens).”

Seconds later, Smith confirmed the latest worst-kept secret in the sport.

“On July 9 of next year, you’ll have a Cup race here after waiting 11 years,” Smith said.

The inaugural Cup race held at the 1.5-mile oval located between Louisville, Ky. and Cincinnati, Oh. will be part of a doubleheader weekend with the Nationwide Series.

Later during the press conference, Smith announced plans to upgrade the facility.

“We’ll be spending $90 to $100 million here between now and next year,” he said. “We’re going to add 50,000 more seats, a lot more restrooms and 12 more elevators.

“When you come to Kentucky Motor Speedway, we want you to come back again.”

Smith said additional acreage will be set aside for fans to camp on the premises. He also stressed the importance of building an airport with a 6,500 foot runway adjacent to the speedway.

“We need an airport here desperately,” Smith said to Steve Beshear, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky who was onhand for Tuesday’s announcement.

“If you give me a contract to build an airport, I’ll have it completed in six months.”

Phoenix

It was announced Tuesday that Phoenix International Raceway will again host two dates in 2011.

“We are honored to be the only facility in the West with two Sprint Cup Series events,” Bryan Sperber said, president of PIR, said. “The commitment from NASCAR to race twice at Phoenix International Raceway speaks volumes for the level of enthusiasm the sport has from fans in Arizona and throughout this part of the country.”

As part of the NASCAR’s schedule realignment, Phoenix International Raceway’s SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 will move from April to Feb. 27 – just one week after the Daytona 500. The race will be a day race.

Phoenix will continue to host the semi-final race in NASCAR’s playoffs – the Chase for the Sprint Cup – on Nov. 13. The Kobalt Tools 500 will also be a day race with a 1 p.m. start locally.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas’s annual NASCAR weekend will return to its traditional March weekend in 2011.

The annual NASCAR weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be held March 4-6, 2011. Earlier this year, the event was held on the final weekend in February due to a quirk in the calendar.

“In reality, it’s on the same weekend as the 2010 event, but our race fans have been used to coming here on the first weekend in March, so it’s good to be back on those dates,” said LVMS president Chris Powell. “We’ve been blessed with great weather on this weekend the past few years, and we look forward to having another great weekend with a packed house in 2011.”

– Jeff Hood of Racintoday contributed to this report.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, August 10 2010
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