Who Owns Kansas Speedway? [Expert Guide!]

For decades, the green flag has flown at the “Magic Mile”, keeping fans and drivers alike excited about the upcoming race. The grandstands have been packed since the mid-1950s, with average attendance rising to an all-time high of 269,941 in 2015.

But, with television sets becoming more intelligent and the race tracks becoming more accessible through streaming services, perhaps it’s time for the American classic to make some changes.

Over the years, various companies have held the naming rights for the speedway. Most recently, it was the Kansas Speedway where the name of the track was officially changed to honor the Jayhawks. It’s now nearly eighty years since the track was originally named after the city of Kansas. How has the naming rights arrangement worked out for the city?

It Was Never Really About The Money

The history of the Kansas Speedway begins in 1936 when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway decided to build a new facility adjacent to their existing one in Kansas City, KS. The company that built the new speedway, the Watkins Glen Grand Prix, was owned by two men named Wilbur Ross and Arthur Long. Ross was from Indianapolis and Long was from Glendale, New York. Although Ross and Long were both involved in professional motor racing, they did not own individual racing teams and were not part of the inner circle of NASCAR drivers at the time.

On the day the new speedway opened, thousands of people streamed in to take a peek at the exciting new competition. After the grand opening, the two owners sold the facility for a record-breaking $2 million. A third partner, Fred Mieres, made the final $1 million investment, helping to fund the project.

A month prior to the opening of the new speedway, a fire destroyed the grandstands and part of the infield. The two-time Indianapolis 500 champion and future NASCAR Hall of Famer Louis Meyer was at the controls of a bucket brigade, rushing to save the day. The damage was estimated at over one million dollars, but thanks to Meyer’s efforts, the track was opened as scheduled on April 14, 1936.

A Family Affair

Since the inception of the Kansas Speedway, it has always been a family affair. The Longs and the Wrights were connected through marriage, blood, and business. Ross’s nephew, Robert S. “Bob” Wright, was the general manager of the track for many years. Wright’s daughter, Louise, was also a driver and shared her father’s enthusiasm for the sport. Daughter Jane was involved in local politics and became the first woman to serve as mayor of Glendale, New York in the 1950s.

Even prior to his time at the Kansas Speedway, Nelson Piquet had been involved in motor racing. He began his career in the late 1940s and early 1950s, competing in events like the Syracuse Grand Prix, before joining the management team at the Estoril Race Track, outside of Lisbon, Portugal. In 1968, Piquet returned to his native country of Brazil and competed in the first Brazilian Grand Prix. He went on to found the Nelson Piquet International Race Team, which he ran in partnership with fellow countryman João Paulo de Oliveira.

A New Home For The Colts

The Indianapolis Colts are currently the only NFL team that does not have an official stadium. The organization plays its home games at the RCA Dome, which opened in 1994 and is an excellent replacement for the legendary Yankee Stadium, which closed in 2000. The Colts are also one of the few teams that have an open seating area.

It is likely that the Colts will soon move to a new state-of-the-art stadium. In 2018, the team broke ground on a new 35,000 square foot training and administration center that will be located just a few miles from its current headquarters. The $27 million complex will feature a five-star restaurant, indoor/outdoor pool, meeting spaces, and practice fields.

The Future Is Now

If the past is any indication, the future of the Kansas Speedway looks very bright. In 1939, the speedway was selected to be on the opening day of the World’s Fair in New York City. In 1960, the track hosted the prestigious Indy 500. The venue also staged the World’s Fair, in 1970 and 1990. Thanks to its location alone, the track is always a destination for sports fans and motor enthusiasts alike.

One of the interesting aspects of the Kansas Speedway is its continual evolution. The grandstands were expanded in the 1950s, with the construction of the famed “Sunshine Corner”. This area, which was built on an entirely new and expansive scale, enabled fans to enjoy the race from a whole new perspective. In the 1960s, the track introduced the Budweiser Tower and the Legends’ Row area, which was named after the legendary drivers who had passed away. Soon thereafter, the track constructed its infamous “Pole Position”, which is situated directly behind the starting line and enables fans to see the whole race from the vantage point of the starting grid. Finally, most recently, the track has undertaken a complete renovation, with the aim of making it a “striking blend of classic automobile and innovative technology”.

As mentioned above, the track continues to evolve, with each new generation taking it in a different direction. However, the one thing it has never changed is its commitment to quality, innovation, and entertainment.

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