Friday, June 16, 2000

NASCAR Trucks race for pole tonight




By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPARTA, Ky. — Jerry Carroll's new Kentucky Speedway roars to life tonight, and its inaugural racing weekend might bring the largest crowd in Greater Cincinnati sports history.

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Ky. Speedway
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        Tonight, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series will stage its “pole night” qualifying at 6:15 p.m., followed by a NASCAR Slim Jim All-Pro stock event at 9:10 p.m. A crowd of about 30,000 is expected.

        Saturday night, a possible sellout crowd of 66,000 is projected for the featured Truck race (7:30 p.m.). The largest crowd to attend a sporting event in Greater Cincinnati is 60,284 for a Bengals-Browns football game at then-Riverfront Stadium on Oct.17, 1971.

        Carroll said the aim is not to break records but to make race fans proud of their new “home” track.

        “It's an exciting weekend for this area,” Carroll said. “We'll have thousands of people that have never been to a race before, and we've put a lot of emphasis on making it a great performance.”

        The 1.5-mile superspeedway cost $153 million and has been nearly two years in construction.

        The speedway stretched its legs Thursday, as Truck and Slim Jim drivers hit the track for the first official practice laps. The day began with some rain, then cleared for the afternoon.

        Darrell Waltrip, the three-time Winston Cup champion and also a Kentucky Speedway paid consultant, said the track looks “beautiful.” But there will be glitches, Waltrip said.

        “For an opening event, everybody's a critic,” he said. “Everybody's gonna tell you what you didn't do right. But we're also anticipating people telling us what a great job we did.”

        Waltrip is grand marshal for Saturday night, which is the official grand opening.

        One concern for drivers is the track, recently re-paved at a cost of $552,000. Several truck drivers were trying to adjust to the surface Thursday, under overcast and then sunny skies.

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