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Sprint Cup gets green flag at Sparta

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After years of wrangling, Owen County may soon see economic fallout from top events at Kentucky Speedway

By Brian Blair

One of the nation’s premier sporting events is coming to Kentucky. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will run a race at Kentucky Speedway in 2011.

The much-anticipated announcement came yesterday after a week of speculation and 10 years of hard work.

Since the track opened in 2000, the goal had been to host a race involving NASCAR’s top series. The dream became a reality when Bruton Smith, the CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI), made the announcement at Tuesday’s press conference at the Kentucky Speedway.

Fans can expect to see their favorite drivers such as Jeff Gordon, Dale Ernhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson next summer when the race will be held July 9 with a Nationwide Series Race to be held July 8.

For a long time it appeared a race may not come to the track. Former owner Jerry Carroll sued NASCAR saying that they violated antitrust laws by not giving the speedway the chance to host a race. Once SMI purchased the track, Smith made no secret of his intentions to bring Sprint Cup to the track. Some think that Carroll’s dropping the lawsuit earlier this year led to yesterday’s announcement.

With big race coming to the track, it will mean several changes. One change will likely be the addition of more seats.

More people attending the race could have an economic impact on Owen County as well as surrounding communities.

”I think it is a good thing for the area,” said Owen County Judge-Executive Carolyn Keith, who was invited by Gallatin County Judge-Executive Kenny French to attend the announcement meeting.

French said last week, “It is going to have a tremendous impact on all of our communities.”

With as many as 100,000 people in and around the speedway, it will probably mean more money for local businesses such as gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants.

According to French, research shows that the average NASCAR fan attending a race will spend $400 to $500 per person.

One local business that has already seen increased business due to current  speedway races is Cowboys Food Store in Owenton.

Store Manager Candice Dalton said the gas station and store sees more people come through its doors during race weekends and believes more will come with the addition of a Sprint Cup race.

Keith said it’s not clear just how big the impact will be on Owen County economically, but she said it will be important for each of our communities to work together.

One person who believes the race will help Owen County is Curtis Sigretto, owner of Elk Creek Winery. The winery was invited to attend the announcement at the track and presented a congratulatory bottle of wine to Smith.

On what it means to his business, Sigretto was excited.

“It’s a big deal,” said Sigretto who indicated he’s already seen an uptick in business thanks to the races currently held in Sparta. He also believes that The others will notice a difference in local businesses next year.

“It should be helpful and it should help everyone,” Sigretto said.

Another person who said Owen County should be excited about having a NASCAR Sprint Cup race so close to its border is 700 WLW’s Bill “Seg” Dennison. Dennison, who is a huge race fan and hosts the KOI Racing Report Show on Sunday nights, is excited about having the top series in NASCAR coming to the region.

“It is going to be fantastic. The Super Bowl is finally going to make it here,” said Dennison in a telephone interview last week.

Dennison said that one thing fans will enjoy about having a Sprint Cup race is how NASCAR turns the week leading up to the race into an event. “NASCAR saturates the area. You know that NASCAR is in town.”

He said fans will want to stay close to the track and expects to see businesses such as hotels and restaurants open up on the exits around the track.

“It will be an economic boom to the area,” Dennison said.

Keith echoed those sentiments and said she thinks it is possible to see some hotels spring up around the area.

With the anticipated crowds expected to be attending Kentucky Speedway for the race, the event could become the biggest revenue-maker for Owen County next to the just completed 127 yard sale.

For now, race fans can sit back and enjoy the remainder of the NASCAR season, knowing that they can watch it for themselves at Kentucky Speedway next July.

The Speedway will host races over Labor Day Weekend as they welcome the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sept. 3 and the IZOD Indycar Series Sept. 4.