Sunday, June 18, 2000

Speedway notebook


Waltrip gushes over opening

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NASCAR legend Darrell Waltrip was grand marshal for Saturday night's official “grand opening” of the track. Waltrip, Kentucky Governor Paul Patton and speedway chairman Jerry Carroll were driven to the infield in a limousine about an hour before the race, and all addressed the crowd.

        Waltrip, who is driving his final season on the Winston Cup circuit, flew in Saturday from this week's Winston race at Po cono, Pa. He is a paid consultant to Carroll's track and put in many hours adding a driver's touch to the facility.

        “This is one of the most exciting days of my life,” Waltrip told the crowd. “I've won a lot of races, Daytona and everywhere else, but I can't tell you how much we've anguished over this for you folks. It just means so much to me as a Kentuckian and to Jerry and everyone here at this race track.”

        Waltrip, Carroll and Patton also joined the 36 Craftsman Truck drivers for a prerace photo on a stage on the infield.

        RAIN WATCH: NASCAR's touring red Craftsman Truck trailer, which sat in the garage area all weekend at Kentucky Speedway, is where its top brass convene at races.

        The hauler has its own Doppler weather radar feed, and NASCAR director of operations Kevin Triplett cast frequent glances at it during the hours leading up to the race.

        “We do everything we can to get the race in,” Triplett said. “Our fans deserve that, and they're pretty patient with us.”

        An estimated 2.5 inches of rain soaked the speedway late Friday night, and Saturday's crowd kept an eye on the sky.

        Skies were overcast for most of the day Saturday, and it rained briefly about 90 minutes before the scheduled 7:30p.m. race start. The race started about 20 minutes late.

        With all that, Triplett said NASCAR has been impressed that the speedway has done all it could to make the massive operation go smoothly. The process of moving a nearly 100,000 people in and out of Kentucky Speedway the track Friday and Saturday was something new to everyone here.

        JOLTIN' JOE: Veteran rocker Joe Walsh, of James Gang and Eagles fame, played some of his best-known hits in a prerace concert. The stage was at the end of pit road, near the entrance of Turn One.

        Walsh took the stage a fashionable 20 minutes late.

        The sound quality was strong as Walsh played old favorites such as “Walk Away,” “Life's Been Good,” and “Rocky Mountain Way.”

        Walsh also sang the national anthem just before the race. He stumbled over a few verses but pushed through to the end, amid fireworks and the customary jet flyover.

       



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- Speedway notebook
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