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Race fans to see changes at Kentucky Speedway

Nationwide race this Saturday

June 10, 2009
When race fans go to Kentucky Speedway this weekend for the Nationwide Meijer 300, they will quickly see there have been major changes around the track. Following last year's Indy Racing League Race in August and the purchase of the track by Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Bruton Smith, work crews quickly moved in for the first phase of a major renovation project.

"First of all, there's been about $13.5 million put into the track so far from our new ownership with SMI," Tim Bray, director of communications, said during a recent Media Day meeting in Louisville. "There is an emphasis on the parking lots mostly. What you used to have were hillsides with up and down hills and all that. Those hills are gone, 900,000 cubic yards of rock and over 1.3 million of dirt moved in the facility. It's flat now with a new rest-room building and a new bath house. At the front entrance, new entrances. There's new front gates now. There will be three pods of gates, but there's 34 gates to get people in and out the place."

Bray said two new ring roads are being built around the track for both cars and shuttles to move fans to and from the track. Fans sitting in the grandstands will also see changes in the infield, where infield camping will now be available, and also a change in the hauler locations, which are being moved to the front of the garage area. Some infield fencing has either been moved or completely eliminated.

"The garage area has changed," Bray said. "There's less fencing, so it's all garage area up around the media center. All that fencing is gone. The tech building is gone; they'll tech in the garages. The haulers are on that side; they're on the grandstand side. We put team parking behind Garage A parking. The motorhome area (on the backstraight) remains the same; that still allows that infield camping. They needed some space."

Nationwide driver Stephen Leicht, who drives the No. 29 Holiday Inn Express car, also was on hand for Media Day and took questions about the track. Leicht said the current changes won't be noticed that much during the race itself.

"The track, as far as size and shape and grip and stuff like that, none of that changes unless NASCAR makes changes to the race cars," Leicht said. "Really, we just have to keep up with the race cars and keep up with the rules, keep up with the tires and learn each week with what we have to make the car handle at its best at every track we go to."

Leicht is eager to get back to the track and said he would like to see two races there. Leicht won there in 2007.

"(Richard Childress Racing) has got a great history at Kentucky Speedway," Leicht said. "I think our average finish there is 2.5 in that car. They're always running up front. They're always fast there. I've won there. I've run there twice, a 10th and a first, so my average finish is fifth. Having won there, that being my first win, part of that is, I think, I'm more comfortable around that race track than probably any other race track."

Back at the track, Phase 2 of the renovation project will come later, hopefully in 2010. That phase involves adding approximately 50,000 seats, upping the seating capacity to more than 100,000. The 1.5-mile tri-oval currently has 66,089 grandstand seats.

"That will be down the road," Bray said. "It could be next year. It will probably be Phase 2, and that is part of the next step. They're definitely going to expand. They believe they need more seats for a (Sprint) Cup race."

Bray said the true purpose of the renovations is to make the track more fan friendly.

"That is the one thing that Bruton Smith has talked about so much," Bray said. "He wants it to be fan friendly and in everything we do. It's going to be exciting. We're laying a foundation."

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