“You’ve been waiting 11 years,” Bruton Smith told the assembled crowd.
Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., confirmed Tuesday what has been general knowledge for weeks – that Kentucky Speedway will host the Sprint Cup Series for the first time July 9, 2011.
NASCAR has been racing at the speedway since 2000, when the Camping World Truck Series ran for the first time at the track.
Smith, who bought Kentucky Speedway in 2008, has been working to bring the Cup series to the 1.5-mile track and accomplished that by moving a date within the SMI family from Atlanta Motor Speedway. He wrestled with lawsuit delays and a string of red tape to reach the Sprint Cup goal.
“What’s happened in Kentucky in the past has been horsepower,” said Smith, referring to the state’s long background in horse racing. “We’re going into something much bigger.”
Smith said he plans to add 50,000 seats to the speedway’s current capacity of about 60,000 and that the track also will add about 200 acres of parking. He aggressively lobbied state officials to build an airport in the area to complement the speedway expansion.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear attended the Tuesday announcement in Sparta, Ky.
“You might say that horses, hoops, shooting, golf and racing are a number of the pillars of entertainment in our Bluegrass State,” Beshear said. “As governor of the commonwealth, I’m eager to see the entertainment value of a Sprint Cup Series race here.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.