Kentucky Speedway, located in Louisville, Kentucky, is one of the most historic motorsport venues in the United States. The speedway was first opened in 1950 and has since hosted many significant races and events, including the famous Grand National Road Racing Championship in 1957 and 1998. Since those events, the speedway has continued to host various races and events, including the present-day Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the ARCA Menards Series. The current ownership group purchased the speedway in 2012. The following is a brief history of the track’s ownership and important events that took place there over the years.
The Early Years
Kentucky Speedway opened on September 3, 1950, and was initially built for horse racing. The owners of the speedway initially wanted to call the track Hollywood Park, which the track’s architect, William H. Hoyle, initially designed to be a country club. The country club was to be built adjacent to the track and was to include a swimming pool. However, the country club never materialized and the track was instead named after the state of Kentucky, which initially owned the land the track was built on. The original name for the track was changed to Kentucky Speedway in 1957, though it continued to be referred to as Hollywood Park until the present day.
The Grand National Road Racing Championship
The most significant race that took place at the track was the Grand National Road Racing Championship, which was first held there in 1957. Thirteen of the top drivers from across the country came to the track for one of the premier events of the year. The race was significant for being one of the few events that allowed African Americans to compete on an even playing field with Caucasians. Despite significant race promoter Fred Harbach’s best efforts, the only black driver to ever win a race at the track was Wendell Scott, who won the feature event in 1957. However, Scott would never attend another race meeting at the track, as he was shot and killed the following year during a robbery.
The First NASCAR Race
The first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race was held at Kentucky Speedway on July 5, 1970. The race attracted a then-record crowd of 43,000 people, though that number would be eclipsed by the track’s next-to-last race, which was attended by 71,000 fans, in 2018.
Grate Chip Ganassi Racing
Ganassi became involved with NASCAR in the early 1970s, though he initially started out as a crew chief for the Wood Brothers. He then founded his own racing team, which he named after the famous Italian race car driver, Johnny Cecotto, in 1972. Cecotto was born in Kentucky and had competed in various sports, including baseball and racing, before his death in 1971. Though the team initially struggled, the team would eventually go on to win the championship in 1983. That same year, the team also swept all the sprint car races at the track.
NASCAR At The Movies
The movie version of NASCAR debuted in 2012, though it was heavily inspired by events that occurred at the track. For the movie, Danny Boyle, the Oscar-nominated director of 28 Days Later and the 2012 movie, The Tourist, adapted his first novel, Rebellion, into a screenplay. Boyle wrote the screenplay after reading James Q. Wilson’s 1958 book, The Man in the Brown Suit: Professional Race Car Driver. According to Wilson’s book, the main character, Ken Miles, is a pro race car driver who hauls ass all over the country, competing in various events, including the Indianapolis 500. In the book, Miles is also haunted by his experiences in World War II, as he races using the names of real World War II fighters, including a German named Hans Schmidt, who was actually a friend of Miles.’
The 2012 movie was a critical and commercial success, though some critics panned Boyle’s handling of the material. The director also faced significant backlash for allegedly ripping off the designs of some of the vehicles in the movie. Nevertheless, the film became the fourth highest-grossing sports movie of all time, with a worldwide box office gross of over $250 million.
In 2018, the NASCAR Cup Series will return to Kentucky Speedway for the first time in 15 years. The last Cup Series race was held at the track on October 9, 2003, though the IndyCar Series and the World Endurance Championship have continued to hold races there, as well. Since the end of the 2003 season, the track has been closed to motorized vehicles and has since become a hub for the alternative energy industry. The speedway also opened a restaurant in 2019 called Doc’s Grill, which replaces the old Spokesman-Review Pub. In July 2020, Kentucky Speedway announced that it had sold out its entire annual season of events, which consisted of the NASCAR Cup Series race and the ARCA race. The track will host a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, a Richard Petty Motorsports 300, on July 12, 2021, and a pair of ARCA races, a 20th anniversary race on July 12, 2021, and the regular-season finale on October 9, 2021.
Though the future of NASCAR at the track is uncertain, the sport has apparently not been abandoned there. In addition to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race and the IndyCar Series race, the ARCA Menards Series has continued to hold races there, though the series’ future, too, is in question, as its owner, Menards, has decided to wind down the series due to declining fan interest and financial challenges. The following is a brief summary of the present ownership of Kentucky Speedway.
Hollywood Park/Kentucky Speedway
After being closed to cars for almost a decade, Kentucky Speedway reopened on September 3, 2010, as an entertainment venue and hub for the automotive industry. The track currently holds races on the NASCAR schedule, but it also hosts concerts and other special events, such as the annual KFC Festival, which is a music festival, food festival, and car show that is held at the track since 2014.
Ganassi still owns the team that he founded, which now goes by the name of his son’s team, Ganassi Racing. The team currently fields two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series cars, the No. 21 and No. 22, but does not currently have any drivers signed for the 2021 season.
Lorin is the CEO of the hedge fund Standard Motor Company, which purchased the track from Ganassi in 2012. Though Lorin is a lifelong car lover, he has not had the same passion for NASCAR as his predecessors. Nonetheless, Lorin reportedly spent over a million dollars per day on gasoline during the 2013 season, which helped fuel a 10% rise in Standard Motor’s net asset value, which in turn, led to an 8% increase in its stock price, making it one of the year’s most popular stocks to buy.
The following is a list of important dates and information about Kentucky Speedway: