Kroger, OREO Cookies to Sponsor
2002 NASCAR BUSCH Series
Event at Kentucky Speedway

Repeat Sellout Crowd Expected For
"The Kroger 300 Presented by Oreo" On June 15

By Don Ward

(April 2002) - SPARTA, KY. – Kentucky Speedway officials have traded ribs for cookies in their sponsorship deal for the 2002 Busch Series race at the 3-year-old Sparta, Ky., track.
The Kroger Co., the Nabisco Biscuit Division of Kraft Foods, and Kentucky Speedway on April 16 announced that the facility's June 15 NASCAR Busch Series race will be titled "The Kroger 300 Presented by Oreo." Nabisco replaces last year's Busch Series race sponsor, Outback Steakhouse.

Busch Race Sponsors

BUSCH Sponsors

The title and presenting sponsorship agreement for Kentucky Speedway's second NASCAR Busch Series event increases the commitment of current corporate partners Kroger and Nabisco. The 2001 inaugural race attracted a Greater Cincinnati record, standing-room-only crowd of 70,338 to the $152-million track.
"We are delighted to have Kroger and Nabisco's Oreo Cookies brand as sponsors of our NASCAR Busch Grand National Race," Kentucky Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Mark F. Cassis said. "Our goal for this race was to attract nationally recognized sponsors, and to have Kroger and Oreo on board for one of our largest events has truly exceeded our expectations. We fully expect to duplicate last season's standing-room-only crowd."
Nabisco's Martin Wingard said the sponsorship agreement "has victory lane written all over it." He cited his company's five-year history of various levels of sponsorships with NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhart Jr., Michael Waltrip, Kevin Harvick, Steve Park and Rusty Wallace, among others.
"This enables us to partner with Kroger and allows us to extend one of the most successful sponsorships in NASCAR," Wingard said.
Nabisco's relationship with Dale Earnhardt Inc. drivers dates to 1998, but this is the first actual race the company has sponsored. He noted that Nabisco already produces "the preferred cracker, cookie and snack nut of NASCAR, and now the Kentucky Speedway."
The Busch Series race weekend at the 1.5-mile tri-oval will kick off with a celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony in Cincinnati, where Earnhardt Jr. will take part in renaming 15th Avenue "Oreo Way."
The festivities will move to Sparta on Friday night with the Busch Series "Pole Night" at 8 p.m. (EST) and the NASCAR Gatorade All-Pro Series race, a 150-mile, 100-lap feature at 10 p.m.
The NASCAR Busch Series drivers take the green flag at 8 p.m. Saturday for a 300-mile, 200-lap event that will be televised on the FX Network. At 11 p.m., the 100-mile, 67-lap NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series race will cap the weekend’s events.
A newly paved track should provide one of the smoothest and fastest surfaces these drivers will face all season, said Kentucky Speedway officials. Cassis said the decision to repave the track after last year’s complaints by Indy Racing League drivers about the track’s bumpiness was an example of the owners’ commitment to the quality of the facility.
“We’ve had some rigidity in the track last year, and (track developer and co-owner) Jerry (Carroll) and the board will just not stop investing in this facility,” Cassis said.
He added that the new I-71 interchange is scheduled to be open by the first full weekend of racing in mid-May. This will allow fans an easier entry and exit to and from the parking areas.
The connector road to Markland Dam, however, will not be completed for perhaps another year. Kentucky Speedway officials have high hopes that, when completed, the connector road to the Markland Dam bridge and the new I-71 interchange will put them one step closer to NASCAR’s prestigious Winston Cup Series.
When asked about that possibility at the April press conference, NASCAR’s managing director of public relations, Rob Copeland, replied, “The big problem we’ve got is that the schedule is packed as it is. We want to expand into different geographic areas of the country, and we’re constantly evaluating our options. We’ve certainly taken notice of the fine show they put on here in Kentucky, but we have a finite amount of time to schedule and run our races.”
Asked later about his recent efforts to obtain a Winston Cup date, Carroll said he was in regular communication with NASCAR officials but that he was no closer to landing a race date as he was last year.
“We just stay focused on providing a top-quality facility, with a great track for the drivers and a great show for the fans and let the rest take care of itself,” Carroll said.
He admitted that repaving the track in April was a major financial investment but one that had to be made to maintain the standards his development team had set for the facility and to ensure his chances of landing a Winston Cup date. He declined to reveal the cost of repaving, joking that is was “somewhere between 10 dollars and $4 million dollars.”
To help mark the sponsorship announcement, Speedway officials invited second-year Busch Series driver Jamie McMurray to Sparta. McMurray, a 27-year-old Joplin, Mo., native, was ranked 13th in Busch Series point standings after seven races this year. As a rookie last season, he finished 10th in the Busch Series race at Sparta and wound up third in the rookie-of-the-year standings by season’s end.
He praised the Kentucky facility, with or without the repaving.
“I thought the track was fine the way it was,” said McMurray, who competed in the 2000 inaugural season at Kentucky by driving in the “Kroger 225” NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
Cassis explained that the bumpy spots on the track were less noticeable for those driving the more rugged NASCAR trucks and stock cars than for the low-riding, 220-mph Indy car drivers.
“The track was runable, but that’s not our goal here,” Cassis said. “This is reaching into our pockets again to make sure we have the best track around.”
McMurray moved to Central City, Ky., 1 _ years ago to be near his Brewco Motorsports racing team. His No. 27 Chevrolet Monte Carlo is sponsored by Williams TravelCenters, based in Nashville, Tenn.
“This place is great. I remember last year all the fans on their feet screaming and cheering. It was just incredible,” McMurray said.
After losing the Outback Steakhouse, Cassis admitted that the slow economy made it tougher than usual in locating a replacement sponsor this year. “These deals are hard to do, but its rewarding when it all comes together.”
Headquartered in Cincinnati, the Kroger Co. is one of the nation's largest grocery retailers, with fiscal 2001 sales of $50.1 billion. The company operates more than 2,400 stores under nearly two dozen banners and a variety of store formats.
The NASCAR Busch Series partnership marks the second title sponsorship for the Kroger Co. at the Kentucky Speedway. The company is in its third year as title sponsor of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series "Kroger 225."
Introduced in 1912, Oreo is celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2002. The top-selling cookie in the world, Oreo is the flagship brand in the Nabisco cookie and cracker portfolio. Oreo is no stranger to NASCAR – an image of the classic vanilla crème-filled chocolate sandwich cookie has adorned the hood of Dale Earnhardt. In February, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. drove an Oreo-branded car to victory in the GNC Live Well 300 in the return of his father's legendary No. 3 to the track.

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