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Should NASCAR Return to Kentucky Speedway?

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After the 2020 season, NASCAR left the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky to a collective “good riddance” from much of the fanbase. However, times have changed, and many are beginning to wonder if the 1.5 mile track in the Bluegrass State is deserving of a second opportunity on the NASCAR Cup Series calendar. Let’s take a look at the history of the track, why it could return, and what some of the fans have to say about Kentucky Speedway.

Why Kentucky Speedway Failed Initially

Kentucky Speedway was initially opened in 2000 during NASCAR’s expansion. It was a 1.5 mile track, the product of its’ time, with 14 degrees of banking, which was very similar banking to the original Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Originally, it only hosted NASCAR Xfinity Series, Truck Series, ARCA Menards Series, and IndyCar races.

In 2008, Speedway Motorsports Inc. bought the track, and, in 2011, Kentucky Speedways got its’ first Cup Series date. The race was a sellout, and Kyle Busch took home the win. However, the story was what was going on outside of the track.

Miles-long traffic jams on virtually all of the roads leading to the race track meant that many fans either got in well after the green flag waved or not at all. It was so bad that SMI offered fans who did not get into the event the ability to redeem their tickets to either the 2012 race or any SMI-owned track for the rest of the year.

As the years went on, the crowds dwindled. The racing product was less than stellar for the most part as well. This was exacerbated by a questionable reconfiguration of the track in 2016. The track was repaved with banking increased in turns one and two. The result was a single groove track with little passing.

Even with the questionable product, Kentucky still produced its’ two best finishes in 2019 and 2020. However, the dwindling attendance and small market size made the race track not desirable for NASCAR to return to in the years to come. This was also in the era when fans were clambering for fewer intermediates and more road courses and short tracks, and Kentucky was by far the least popular intermediate track on the circuit.

Why It Could or Could Not Be Worth Returning To

Time goes on and opinions tend to change regarding things. In 2022, NASCAR introduced the Next-Gen car, which produced the exact opposite product that the Gen-6 car did. The intermediate tracks like Kentucky were beginning to host some of the best races they ever had, while the road course and short track races were not being received as well by fans.

As a result, some fans are beginning to do something that seemed unfathomable just a few years ago. They are asking for more 1.5 mile race tracks. Kentucky Speedway is a race track that many are pointing to as a track they could go to.

It would make sense for a couple of reasons. First off, it is a track that is already built and under the umbrella of Speedway Motorsports Inc. They don’t need to worry about leasing the track from someone else or building a new race track if they want to add this track back into the fray.

Secondly, it is a track that many wonder whether or not it truly got a fair shake. It was given one of the worst race cars for intermediate track racing, and many wonder whether or not the track would improve with the Next-Gen Car.

However, one problem with the race track is its’ location. The track is roughly halfway between Cincinnati and Louisville, which are both decent-sized markets, but they are nowhere near the size of other major cities NASCAR targets. The track is also within a five hour drive of Nashville Superspeedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, World Wide Technology Raceway, Michigan International Speedway, and the Chicago Street Race.

The location is going to be a tough sell to NASCAR, especially considering how attendance dwindled in the years to come. Still, that has not stopped some fans from wanting to see this track come back. Even then, some fans do not see a reason for the track to come back.

In the Stands

Kentucky resident Michael Bell is all for NASCAR making their return to Kentucky Speedway.

leonard farrell says that SMI is too caught up in other projects to bring back Kentucky Speedway.

Greg Hartman looks at the amount of race tracks in the area, and he is unsure if the track is worth going back to.

NeilJ67 calls the track “low risk”, and he feels it is worth a shot.

RShockley says that NASCAR should return to as many tracks as they can because most tracks should not have more than one race per season.

Brayden Fletcher says that the reconfiguration made the track not work.

Eric98 would rather see them improve the short track and road course product than add another intermediate track.

Kentucky Speedway returning definitely falls on the wishful thinking side of the spectrum, and there is no real guarantee that all of the fans want it back either. Maybe NASCAR will return one day, but it is hard to see it happening anytime soon.

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