The Kentucky Speedway in Sparta is being sold to one of professional auto racing’s biggest operators. Speedway Motorsports Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., and its founder and chairman Bruton Smith will announce at 3 p.m. that it is purchasing the speedway in a deal that is expected to close in October.
Terms will not be announced but Kentucky Speedway Chairman and developer Jerry Carroll confirmed this morning that Smith plans to invest $50 million in the speedway and bring a coveted NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to the Gallatin County track as early as 2009.
“He wouldn’t be buying the track if he wasn’t going to bring a Sprint Cut race here,” said Carroll as he rode to the airport to take a charter flight to North Carolina for the announcement. Speculation is that Smith will move a Sprint Cup race from tracks he operates in Atlanta or New Hampshire. Track employees were informed of the sale during a 30-minute staff meeting held this morning at the trackâ€™s business offices in Fort Mitchell. The message from Carroll, track president Mark Simendinger and executive vice president and General Manager Mark Cassis was to continue operating as usual. The speedway employs about 30 people.
The future of Kentucky Speedway is expected to be addressed during a â€œmajor announcementâ€ scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Concord, N.C. Sources close to the speedway confirmed to the Enquirer tonight [May 21st] that Kentucky Speedway officials have been in talks with Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman and chief executive officer O. Bruton Smith about selling or partnering with the Sparta track owned by Jerry Carroll and his partners.
A spokesman with Loweâ€™s Motor Speedway, one of the seven tracks owned by SMI that hosts NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, indicated only that Thursday’s announcement would be of interest. The exact nature of the announcement is not immediately known, but it could include selling all or part of the speedway or partnering with Smith to bring a Sprint Cup race to the 1.5-mile track. Smith will make the announcement at 3pm/et Thursday in the media center at Loweâ€™s Motor Speedway. Carroll was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
News of a potential deal with SMI comes at the same time lawyers representing Kentucky Speedway continue to fight in 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the early January decision by a U.S. District Court judge to dismiss the trackâ€™s antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp.