Sunday, July 08, 2001

Trucks next at Ky. Speedway


More than 40,000 fans expected

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The circus has come and gone. Still, Kentucky Speedway promises another big show with its NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

        Last month, a NASCAR Busch race drew 70,338 to Sparta. It was an outsized event, loaded with hype and celebrities and B-1 Bomber flyovers and whatnot.

IF YOU GO
  Friday
  4 p.m. — Spectator gates open
  5:30 p.m. NASCAR Craftsman Truck pole qualifying
  6 p.m. — Prerace concert (Tim Rushlow)
  7:15 p.m. — Craftsman Truck final practice
  9 p.m. — ARCA Blue Grass Quality Meats 200 race
  Saturday
  3 p.m. — Spectator gates open
  6 p.m. — Prerace concert (Joe Diffie)
  8 p.m. — NASCAR Craftsman Truck Kroger 225 race
        The buildup isn't quite as large this week, with the trucks one notch below Busch on the NASCAR totem pole. But the speedway said it anticipates a crowd of more than 40,000 for the race, which features U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) as grand marshal.

        “We'll sell a tremendous amount of tickets with our final push this week,” speedway chairman Jerry Carroll said. “Most places, they don't draw this much for a truck race.”

        Last year the trucks drew 63,750 to Kentucky for the track's inaugural event. It was billed as a stand-alone NASCAR Truck record, with “stand-alone” signifying an event not paired with a Winston Cup or Busch race.

        Kentucky Speedway's fan base already has proved large enough for any event to do well, even without the NASCAR name attached. There were 61,214 for an IRL race last August and 26,202 for an ARCA race in May — hefty figures for the respective series.

        There is another ARCA race Friday night at Kentucky. Presale is more than 20,000, the track said.

        Carroll heard mostly positive feedback from the Busch race, but he was displeased with the traffic flow afterward. Some fans zipped right onto I-71, but others were stuck in speedway parking lots for more than an hour.


Because of that, Carroll has hired a new parking agency. The previous organization was dismissed.

        “Everything is geared to getting people in and out of here as quickly as possible,” Carroll said. “I think people will see the difference. For the most part, we got rave reviews on the entire event.”

        This week, fans will see some familiar Craftsman Truck names but will need a program for others.

        The top four drivers from last year's truck standings have moved on, including Greg Biffle, who won last year's Kentucky truck race and is now a Busch Series star.

        Also gone are 2000 truck series runner-up Kurt Busch, third-place Andy Houston and fourth-place Mike Wallace, who all took Winston Cup rides at the start of 2001.

        Still around are two-time truck series champion Jack Sprague and 2001 points leader Joe Ruttman. Other notable truckers are former Winston regular Ted Musgrave, Ricky Hendrick and Willy T. Ribbs.

        PLAY BALL: Several Craftsman Truck drivers will play a softball game vs. ESPN personnel at Northern Kentucky University's women's softball field Thursday (6 p.m.). Admission is free.

        FULTZ WINS AGAIN: Cincinnati native Jeff Fultz, who won last month's NASCAR Gatorade All-Pro race at Kentucky Speedway, won last week at South Boston, Va.

        The victory lifted Fultz into third place in the 2001 All-Pro points race.

        MARCIS QUITS: Dave Marcis, last of the independent racers, said he will retire after the Daytona 500 next February.

        Marcis, 60, didn't exactly grab the same headlines that baseball's Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn did with similar announcements recently. But neither Ripken nor Gwynn had their sport's leader attend their retirement press conference, as Marcis did with NASCAR chairman Bill France Jr. alongside.

        Marcis has five career wins, the last in 1982. His most recent top-10 finish was in 1994. He spent most of his career as an owner-driver without major sponsorship.

        “Is it time or isn't it time?” Marcis told reporters at Daytona. “I don't know. Racing's not just a job; it's been fun.”
       

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