Cars Invade Kentucky
for Tracks Season Finale
SPARTA, Ky. Baseball great Pete Rose will help
kick off festivities at this months final race weekend at the
new Kentucky Speedway when the former Cincinnati Reds star gives the
command for drivers to start their engines and take part in other activities.
The climax of the tracks inaugural season will feature
the 200-lap Belterra Resort Indy 300, an Aug. 27 race sponsored
by the new Belterra Resort and Casino and sanctioned by the Indy Racing
Leagues Northern Lights Series.
The Automobile Club of Americas Bondo-Hyde Series also will return
for the Bluegrass Quality Meats 200, a 134-lap event that
takes the green flag at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26.
Indy cars will race around the 2.5-mile tri-oval at speeds ap-proaching
215 mph. Al Unser Jr. topped out at 213 mph during Open Test week here
in late June. Teenaged driver Sarah Fisher of Ohio topped all drivers
who participated at 218 mph. She drives for veteran Indy-style car owner
I see the pole sitter coming in at something over 215 mph,
said Unser during his July visit to Sparta.
The track is great. And the more banking you have, the more equal
the cars become. It brings in more draft, and were running wide
open all the time, so it becomes a drafting game.
The IRL race is the eighth of nine events for drivers competing for
the 2000 season points championship, which is being defended by 1999
winner Greg Ray of Plano, Texas.
Ray won the last IRL race, July 15 in Atlanta, but he will have a hard
time repeating since his bad luck this year puts him 11th in points
coming into Sparta.
Buddy Lazier leads the points race with 208, followed by Eddie Cheever
Jr. with 185 and Scott Goodyear with 175. The IRL has shown a large
degree of parity this season, with seven different winners in seven
Ray, meanwhile, is hoping his turn of good luck in Atlanta will put
him on a winning course for the final two events. It has been a surprising
season of bad luck for the series defending champion.
Despite starting from the pole five times, his previous-best finish
this year was ninth in the Vegas Indy 300 in April at Las Vegas.
After finishing last in the Indianapolis 500 after earning the pole,
Ray experienced engine failure six laps from the end of the Casino Magic
500 at Texas to finish 15th.
Then an accident in the Radisson Indy 200 at Pikes Peak dropped him
to 20th. He left Colorado in June with a damaged car and in 19th place
in the Northern Light Cup point standings.
But a new approach helped Ray win at Atlanta and leap in the standings.
After Pikes Peak I took a big step backward, Ray said. I
wasnt being aggressive enough in some areas, and I was being too
aggressive in other areas, and I was trying to make things happen where
maybe I shouldnt have.
On July 18, Ray and Team Menard conducted private testing at the Kentucky
Speedway along with Kelley Racing, Panther Racing and Treadway Racing
in preparation for the Belterra 300. Last November, Ray was the first
to test at the new facility while it was still under heavy construction.
Its a first-class facility all the way, Ray said of
the new speedway. The track is very wide, very smooth, and it
has a speed rhythm to it. Its going to be a very racy place.
While Kentuckys track is the same distance as Atlanta, Las Vegas
and Texas, the new track has unique characteristics, Ray said.
When you come off of Turn 4, the banking really holds you,
Ray said. Its very, very wide there. Its going to
make for some incredible passing because it is so wide. It wouldnt
surprise me a bit to see a last-lap, last-corner pass for the lead.
Track officials say problems caused by heavy rains during the June 16-17
opening weekend have been remedied with the addition of 10,000 new contingency
lot spaces, a new VIP lot and a new RV/camping area.
Since that first weekend, the track has successfully accommodated a
record stand-alone crowd of more than 30,000 people for the July 2 ARCA
race and more than 52,000 for a July rock concert.
Weve proved that we can move traffic and park cars, and
we are ready to have the fans come out on Aug. 26 and 27, said
general manager Mark Cassis.
Back to August 2000 Articles.