Kentucky Speedway taking shape

First race set for June 2000
with hopes of five events
in the first year of operation

By Don Ward

SPARTA, Ky. (July 1999) – The dust cloud hovering over the massive construction site atop the hill at the Sparta-Warsaw, Ky., exit on I-71 represents only a preview of the action to come to this otherwise peaceful farmland.

Speedway Construction

Photo by Don Ward

Construction continues at a rapid
pace at the $152 million Kentucky
Speedway, located just off the
Sparta-Warsaw, Ky., exit of I-71 in
Gallatin County. Track officials say the
track will be paved in September.
The first race has been set for
June 2000. Many area race fans have
already bought lifetime seats.

Just two miles south down the interstate, heavy equipment vehicles scurry up and down the hillsides, furrowing out dirt and building new mounds that will someday be a new I-71 exit and highway connecting the interstate with the Markland Dam bridge into Indiana.
It won’t be long before the sounds of revving race car engines will roar through these hills.
In fact, by this time next year, the $152 million Kentucky Speedway in Gallatin County, Ky., will have already held its first race – the “Blue Grass Quality Meats 200.”
The race will be an Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) event worth about $350,000 and feature stock cars with less horsepower than their prestigious Winston Cup circuit cousins.
Track officials hope to stage at least five races next year, beginning with the June event.
And they have petitioned NASCAR to get four existing races – the Craftsman Truck Series Race (now held in Louisville), an ALLPRO series event, a Busch Grand National series event and a Goodies Dash Race.
“We’ve had great weather lately and everything’s on schedule,” said Andy Vertrees, director of operations for both the Kentucky Speedway and Louisville Motor Speedway.
And in anticipation of the track’s completion, Kentucky Speedway officials are sponsoring “Race Fest ’99” on July 31.

Andy Vertrees

Photo by Don Ward

Kentucky Speedway
Director of Operations
Andy Vertrees of
Buckner, Ky., poses
along the newly
completed inner race
wall. Vertrees built
and operated the
Louisville Motor
Speedway before
developer Jerry Carroll
bought him out and put
him in
charge of
both tracks.

The event will feature performances by Nashville country music stars Sawyer Brown, Aaron Tippin, Brad Paisley and SHeDAISY, along with appearances by NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip and others.
In addition, there will be a day-long car show, featuring NASCAR, CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) and IRL (Indy Racing League) race cars, show cars, trucks and simulators Food and beverage concessions will be available.
Officials had hoped to hold the festival at the track site. But on June 20, they decided to move the event to Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. to avoid disturbing the construction and to better deal with inclement weather, should it occur.
Despite the move, officials say they still expect upwards of 50,000 people. Track developer and co-owner Jerry Carroll, former owner of Turfway Park, hired engineer Bill Moss and construction manager Frank Holbert, both of whom built Las Vegas Motor Speedway, to build his speedway.
The two men have capitalized on the finer points of their previous construction in Nevada and enhanced features that they say will make the Kentucky Speedway even better for racing fans.
Examples of improved features include a pit area that is closer to the grandstands, plus an overhead walkway for fans who, for the price of a pit pass, can view their favorite drivers and crews in action.
“That’s going to be one of the most unique aspects of the facility,” Vertrees said.
Already, the site is beginning to look like a race track, despite the dozens of trucks, bulldozers and heavy equipment vehicles kicking up clouds of dust.
Workers are putting the finishing touches on the concrete track wall, which is being coated with a polymer finish that will help absorb impact from a race car without damaging the wall’s internal structure.
Vertrees said the 1.5-mile track itself will be paved in September and topped with a polymer finish that is the latest in asphalt technology.

Speedway Map

This map shows the layout of the future
Kentucky Speedway. Although fans
won’t be allowed into the infield on
race day, they can buy a pit pass that
will give them access to a walkway
over the pit area. The unique feature is
among the many suggestions from
track consultant and NASCAR
dirver Darrell Waltrip.

Currently, there are about 180 workers on the 1,000-acre job site. By Aug. 1, when the buildings start to go up, the number of workers will jump to 600.
A concrete grandstand designed to eventually seat 65,000 people is nearly complete around the northern rim of the track. Across the top of the grandstand will be a row of corporate luxury suites capable of accommodating 4,000 people.
So far, 42 of 50 suites have already been sold at $30,000 a year for three years. In addition to gate passes, lifetime season tickets – what track officials call “personal seat licenses” – are being sold at prices ranging from $1,400 to $2,000.
A club membership, meanwhile, will get you into the air conditioned, glass-enclosed restaurant on the start/finish line for $5,000. So far, 150 of 220 club memberships have been sold.
Behind the back stretch wall will be an area for motor home parking what Vertrees called “the best seat in the house.”
In all, officials have sold more than $4 million in personal seat licenses, Vertrees said.
“But we’re not going to sell them all out because we want the average race fan to be able to come to the track on race day and get in.”
Additional construction phases include adding a small corporate airport out back and a section of grandstand seats above the corporate suites, expanding the total capacity to 120,000 seats and 120 luxury suites when – and if – track officials lure the Winston Cup series.
Vertrees, 52, a Louisville native who got racing in his blood early by racing cars at age 16, bought his first track in Owensboro, Ky., and operated it for nine years.
In 1987, he began construction on the Louisville Motor Speedway and opened it a year later. Carroll bought the speedway from Vertrees last year and hired Vertrees to manage both tracks.
“Jerry Carroll’s a neat guy to work for,” Vertrees said. “And I think he’s got into something here that will really make him known in the area a lot more than horse racing ever did.”
Carroll has also hired NASCAR’s Waltrip as a consultant on the project to contribute ideas on making the track driver- and fan-friendly.
The results so far have been to add two crew member lounges, the overhead pit viewing area, plus a private playground, exercise room, chapel and outdoor swimming pool to be built in the infield for crew members’ families.
A final touch will be a Colonial-style building to house track offices and souvenir shops near the front gates.
On non-race days, officials plan to provide meeting rooms for local civic groups and conduct tours to what they say will be a tourist attraction in its own right.
They expect visitors from all across the country.
“These extra touches will make it the finest track in America,” Vertrees said. “It’s Jerry Carroll’s Field of Dreams.”

Back to July 1999 Articles.



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