Brazilian Giaffone earns first
IRL win at Kentucky Speedway
Hornish Jr. battles to second
in "Belterra Casino Indy 300"
By Don Ward,
(with reports from the Kentucky Speedway)
SPARTA, KY. (Sept. 2002) Kentucky Speedway solidified its position as one of motorsports premier venues in 2002 as drivers from the NASCAR Busch Series, Indy Racing League, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and ARCA RE/MAX Series staged history-making performances for avid race fans that continued to fill and overflow the speedways 66,089 grandstand capacity.
Already, these racing circuits have committed to returning next year to the three-year-old Sparta, Ky. track.
In August, Indy Racing League driver Sarah Fisher made IRL history with her Belterra Casino Indy 300 qualifying run. The 21-year-old Ohio native became the fastest woman ever to race at Indianapolis in May. She added a similar title at Kentucky Speedway with a historic run to the pole for The Belterra Casino Indy 300.
After waiving off her first qualifying attempt, Fisher engineered a 221.390 mph lap to become the first woman in open-wheel racing, IRL and Kentucky Speedway history to earn a pole award. The qualifying effort also shattered Kentucky Speedways previous pole record of 219.191 mph, set by Scott Goodyear in 2000.
Felipe Giaffone took his first career IRL win at Kentucky Speedway and also became its first international race winner. The 27-year-old, 2001 IRL Rookie of the Year, joins fellow Sao Paulo, Brazil drivers Helio Castroneves, Airton Dare and Gil de Ferran on the circuit.
Sam Hornish Jr.
Giaffone also set the series record for closest margin of victory at Kentucky Speedway by nipping the second-place Sam Hornish, Jr., by 0.0932 seconds. It was the closest margin of victory in series history at Kentucky Speedway.
Earlier in the day, A.J. Foyt, IV, grandson of the legendary A.J. Foyt, won the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series event. The newly formed series was conceived as a training ground for future IRL stars.
Kentucky Speedway emergency crews entered the national news spotlight on Sunday, Aug. 11, when Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series driver and internationally known actor Jason Priestley crashed his car into the retaining wall near Turn 2 during an early morning practice. Priestley suffered serious internal and external injuries as a result of the contact and became the first driver in speedway history to be air lifted from the speedways infield care center for trauma treatment.
Speedway safety crews interacted with their counterparts from the IRL to extract Priestley from his cockpit both safely and efficiently. As the drivers condition improved, he was transferred from the University of Kentucky Hospital to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. He has since been released from the hospital and moved to an undisclosed orthopedic rehabilitation center and is expected to make a full recovery.
In June, the NASCAR Busch Series Kroger 300 Presented by Oreo set a crowd attendance record for the second consecutive year. Kentucky Speedway fans toppled their own Greater Cincinnati single sporting event attendance record of 70,338 when 71,229 visited Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, June 15.
Heavy rains tainted the festive atmosphere near the mid-point of the race, but those who returned the next afternoon witnessed one of the closest finishes of the 2002 series season as Todd Bodine and his No. 92 Excedrin Chevrolet, bumped, banged and battled Greg Biffle and the No. 60 Grainger Ford down the Kentucky front stretch to the finish line.
Bodine won by 0.036 seconds as Biffle slid sideways across the line and into the infield. The margin of victory is second all-time in speedway history and one of the closest races in series history. The NASCAR Goodys Dash Series and driver Robert Huffman delivered the speedways closest winning margin of 0.024 seconds on June 16, 2001.
Energized by its second consecutive Greater Cincinnati single sporting event record crowd in June, Kentucky Speedways all-time attendance catapulted past the 843,000-fan plateau in 2002. Attendance for the speedways feature events grew a combined 12 percent.
The newly paved racing surface not only received accolades from drivers, it is being credited for faster speeds. The NASCAR Busch Series, Indy Racing League and NASCAR Hills Bros. All Pro Series all set new speed records on Kentucky Speedways newly-paved 1.5-mile tri-oval in 2002.
Indy Racing League drivers found the most speed among the major series that appeared at Kentucky Speedway. Fishers historic pole speed led a pack of 21 drivers who bettered Scott Sharps 2001 pole speed of 214.598 mph. A group of 11 drivers beat Goodyears previous speedway pole record of 219.191 mph, set in 2000.
The NASCAR Busch Series experienced a similar improvement as Scott Riggs set the new speedway record at 174.891 mph to knock Jay Sauters inaugural pole speed of 171.860 mph out of the speedway record books. A total of 12 drivers qualified better than Sauters 2001 mark.
Not to be outdone, the NASCAR Hills Bros. All Pro Series set a new pole record for the fourth consecutive time during qualifying for The 84 WHAS 150. Scott Carlson posted the new series record of 157.279 mph on Aug. 9. The Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series also lived up to its advanced billing for its Kentucky 100 race when A.J. Foyt, IV, took the inaugural pole with a fastest lap of 179.571 mph.
In July, Kentucky Speedways Kroger 225 became the second-fastest race in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series History.
The third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at the track saw driver Mike Bliss win for the second week in a row in the second fastest race in series history. The 143.515 mph average pace also set a series record for the track.
The record didnt stop there. Bliss 18.197-second margin of victory was the widest margin in both NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and Kentucky Speedway history. The Kroger 225 also set Kentucky Speedway records for the fewest number of caution laps at 12, and tied the speedway record for the fewest number of caution periods in a race with three.
Bliss led 93 laps in the race, but after a flurry of late pit stops only regained the lead with 10 laps remaining and held on to become Kentuckys third different Kroger 225 champion.
Kentucky Speedway also helped celebrate the 50th anniversary of ARCA stock car racing with two events at the track. In May, The Channel 5 155 drew the second-largest ARCA series crowd in speedway history as 27,575 fans cheered Frank Kimmels third consecutive Kentucky Speedway win. Kimmel became the first three-time champion in speedway history by beating out series rookie Chad Blount by 0.296 seconds.
Kimmel also set the mark for the closest ARCA RE/MAX Series margin of victory at Kentucky Speedway with the performance. Blount would return in July to avenge his loss by beating Kimmel in The Blue Grass Quality Meats 200.
All season long, drivers of the various racing circuits, including those from the prestigious Winston Cup, praised the track conditions and amenities of the speedway.
One of the speedways biggest days came when former NASCAR Winston Cup Champions Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte joined Michael Waltrip and Stacy Compton during a test that coincided with NASCAR Busch Series Media Day.
Sterling Marlin, who has spent several weeks atop the series points standings, Jimmy Spencer, Kentucky native Jeremy Mayfield and Casey Atwood also have spent time fine tuning their race machines in the Kentucky Speedway garages. Perhaps the best compliment the facility received was when Jarrett took his first win of 2002 at Pocono and credited it in part to his test at Kentucky Speedway earlier in the week.
The speedways lineup of special entertainment in 2002, meanwhile, included country stars Chely Wright in May and Lee Greenwood in July. Kentucky Speedway hosted rock band Dishwalla for a pre-race concert in June.
The speedway also capitalized on its versatility by hosting The Outdoor Experience RV & Boat Show the week prior to the June Busch race weekend and the United States Cowboy Tour Racing Rodeo in conjunction with the July truck race.
Kentucky Speedway will announce its 2003 schedule in the upcoming weeks and season tickets will go on sale this fall. Single-event tickets will be on sale in January. Visit www.kentuckyspeedway.com for the latest schedule and ticket information.
Back to 2002 Kentucky Speedway Articles.