I just returned from a trip to Kentucky Speedway. It is one of the biggest and most famous motorsports venues in the United States. Over the past few years, I have gotten to know a few of its drivers and enthusiasts. Below is a little background on how far away Kentucky Speedway is from my home in New Jersey, as well as some of the things I saw and learned there.
The History Of Kentucky Speedway
The history of Kentucky Speedway actually begins before there was an interstate highway system in the U.S. In the 1950s, NASCAR legend Bill France decided to build a racetrack on the dry, flat terrain of Louisville, Kentucky. He wanted to host his own version of the Grand Prix races that he had seen in Europe. The first Kentucky Grand Prix was held in 1960 and was won by a Porsche driven by Peter Gregg.
The popularity of the race grew rapidly, attracting top-flight motorcyclists and car enthusiasts from all over the U.S. The site also became a haven for draft beer drinkers, who would travel from far away places like New York and Pennsylvania just to get a taste of the local brew. By the mid-1970s, some 150,000 people were walking through the turnstiles each week. That’s more than one-third of the entire city of Louisville. In 1979, a terrible fire destroyed much of the grandstand and nearby hotel. But the track survived relatively unscathed, and the following year the organizers decided to rebuild it completely.
The Grand Prix Is Still Going Strong
Fast forward to today, and the popularity of the Kentucky Grand Prix is still unrivaled in the U.S. One of the reasons is that the organizers have kept the same basic formula that made the event so attractive to beginners back in the day – low-cost tickets and a willingness to entertain limited attendance. The annual event now sees around 20,000 visitors each Thursday night – down from the 150,000 who came before, but still a good showing for a Thursday night in rural Kentucky.
Another distinguishing factor is the quality of the racing itself. The fans get to see some of the best amateur and open-wheelers in the country, battling it out on a compact track that occasionally floods with rain and mud. Although the event now airs live on TV, most of the action remains on the track itself, as the drivers and riders get to know each other and their machines better than ever before.
The event also benefits from having multiple sponsorships, enabling it to attract top-level corporate funding. Monster Energy, for example, sponsors the grandstands and hospitality areas, as well as the race itself. Anheuser-Busch sponsors the turnstiles, and more recently, the speedway has gained notoriety for being the site of the famous “Battle Of The Bulge” cycling race, which pits pro teams from around the world against each other.
The Future Of Kentucky Speedway
The organizers of Kentucky Speedway are currently in the process of upgrading the track to bring it up to modern standards. It will be interesting to see what they come up with. One thing is for sure – it won’t look or feel like it did in the 1960s.
I think that the most significant change that the speedway will experience is the upgrading of the parking lot. They are bringing in additional parking spaces and building a new, parallel garage that will accommodate the extra cars. Additionally, most of the existing parking spots will be made wider and smoother, so that cars will not get damaged while trying to enter or exit the space.
I spoke with some of the people who work at the speedway, and they told me that the plan is to have the new garage open by mid-summer of 2020.
A Grand Tour Of Kentucky Speedway
With my love for cars, traveling to see motor racing events in person is one of my favorite things. Being able to cover the sport from a journalistic point of view is something else again. So before the end of the season, which will be here before you know it, I decided to do something that I have never done before – take a road trip to Kentucky Speedway to see a NASCAR race live. It was an extraordinary experience that I will never forget.
One of the things that made the trip so memorable is that I was able to see the entire track, from the entranceway to the very last turn. This was made possible by the kind invitation of NASCAR enthusiast and photographer Nick Adams. He was so welcoming and took such good care of me during my stay, which really set the tone for the entire trip.
I highly recommend traveling to Kentucky to see a NASCAR race. You will have an opportunity to witness some of the greatest vehicles in existence being driven at breakneck speeds by skilled professionals, as well as catch some of the most exciting moments with your own eyes.