Friday, October 08, 1999

Speedway's first test: 155 mph no problem

'I could really fly' says pro driver Bill Beard

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Workers pause to watch ARCA driver Bill Beard speed around Kentucky Speedway Friday.
| ZOOM |
(Tony Jones photo)
        SPARTA, Ky. — A giant has been quietly stretching its legs in Gallatin County near Interstate 71 for more than a year. On Thursday that giant, the Kentucky Speedway, came to life with the roar of a racing engine.

        Stock car driver Bill Beard of Sturgis, Ky., who clinched the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) points championship in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday night, put about 20 laps on the asphalt surface at the speedway in one of his race cars Thursday afternoon.

        “We were very pleased with the results,” race track architect/engineer Bill Moss said. “We wanted (Mr. Beard's) opinion of the track, of what worked and what didn't. His impressions were all good.”

        The 1.5-mile speedway, to open next summer, has been progressing on schedule since ground was broken in July 1998, according to track president and co-owner Jerry Carroll. The first layer of banked asphalt is in place, and most of the concrete grandstand area to seat 65,000 racing fans is complete.

        “Ironically, the dry weather this summer has been a big help in maintaining our construction schedule,” Mr. Carroll said. “We bought this land (about 1,000 acres) from farmers, and if they were still farming it this summer would have been a bad one for them.”

        Mr. Moss, who built Talladega (Ala.) Speedway and the new racetrack in Las Vegas, said he was impressed with the continued progress of Kentucky Speedway.

        “I've never been further ahead with the second layer

        (of asphalt) on a racetrack than with this one,” he said. “And I've never worked with a better crew, except when we built Talladega because that was all people from my own company.”

        Mr. Beard, who was clocked at just under 35 seconds — or roughly an average speed of 155 mph — said he found no place where the track did not react as it should.

        “I would say when the top layer of asphalt is down and the track is clean, we can easily run under 32 seconds,” he said. “The car I had today is built for short tracks (1/2-mile), and we had an old set of tires on it. And there was a lot of dust on the track.

        “I think if you have two really fast cars running on this track, you're going to see a tremendous race coming out of the No.4 turn heading for the checkered flag. When I came out of four and into the tri-oval section, I could really fly.”

        Kentucky Speedway, being con structed at a cost of $150 million, will open in June with an ARCA race. An Indy Racing League (IRL) race is scheduled for August, and the NASCAR Truck Series race that runs tonight at Louisville Speedway is expected to move to Kentucky Speedway in 2000.

        In addition to 65,000 grandstand seats, the track features 50 luxury suites and a 210-seat restaurant. It is designed to be expanded to 150,000 seats and 120 luxury boxes, assuming Mr. Carroll and company, as expected, obtain a NASCAR Winston Cup Series race in the next 2-3 years.