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Owen gearing up for race visitors

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Official questions impact of NASCAR race coming to neighboring county

By Molly Haines

With the NASCAR Sprint Cup series race only months away, local officials are beginning to weigh in on the economic impact the race could have on Owen County.
The announcement of the Sprint Cup race coming to Kentucky Speedway, located off the Sparta exit on I-71, was made last August.
Since the announcement of the Sprint Cup, the Kentucky Speedway has increased its stadium seating from 66,000 to 105,000.
Three NASCAR races will take place July 7-9, including the Camping World Truck Series Race on July 7, the Nationwide Series Race on July 8 and the Sprint Cup Series race on July 9.
Owen County Judge-executive Carolyn Keith said she is still skeptical about the economic impact the sprint cup could have on Owen County this year.
“I really think our location hampers us,” Keith said. “People drive such long distances to come to these events, and we’re very close to Sparta. By the time they get to Owen County they know how close they are, they’re tired from the driving and they just want to make it to their destination.”
Keith said she thinks restaurants and gas stations will see more business during the week of the race, but she doesn’t foresee a lot of tourists staying in Owen County.
“I don’t anticipate a large number of people stopping in Owen County for this particular race,” Keith said. “However, I do think it’s important for the chamber of commerce and Owen County to make an effort to publicize our county through the web and other outlets. If we can encourage people to come back, I think it could really help us.”
Owen County Chamber of Commerce President Dallas Stafford said he’s excited to see such a large number of potential guests in Owen County.
“It’s a good opportunity for Owen County, the city of Owenton, and all of our communities,” Stafford said. “We have some great accommodations here, and in talking to owners of some of our motels, it seems like everyone’s pretty much booked up for the event.”
Stafford said he had been encouraging Elk Creek Hunt Club to sponsor a shoot for the week of the race.
“They’ve hosted a national event and are recognized across the nation,” Stafford said. “It would be a great opportunity for them and for other places throughout the county. There will be some downtime during the week and a shoot would give them the opportunity to experience some of what Owen County has to offer. That could lead them to some of our restaurants and other businesses.”
Tammy Stiles, who works at the hunt club, said they are in the beginning stages of planning a shoot and that they have contacted Kentucky Speedway to see what could attract NASCAR fans to Elk Creek.
“There are going to be a lot of people looking for things to do,” Stafford said. “We can offer them our beautiful countryside, camping, our quilt trail and great fishing among other things. I would encourage all local business owners to prepare for this event and contact the speedway to see what they feel we could do to attract some of their crowd here.”
Stafford said 100,000 plus people will be in the area for the races.
“That’s huge for this area,” Stafford said. “It could have a big impact on Owen County, but it will be what we make it.”
Keith said county government will support the chamber of commerce in any ideas it has to bring tourists to Owen County during the week of the race.
“I think the role of county government in this situation is to encourage the chamber so that they may become more proactive,” Keith said. “This is a larger affair than what the track has had in the past, and I think if we could get Owen County’s name out there — by advertising our bed and breakfasts and motels — and get people who attend this race to come back year after year, we could benefit from it on a larger scale.”
Owenton Mayor Doug West said the city council has not yet discussed any plans for the upcoming event.
“We’ll just have to have a discussion on it, probably at the next meeting,” West said. “I don’t know how we would get to all of them with advertising because they’ll be coming from all over.”
Owenton City Council meets at 6 p.m. April 5.