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So what's up with Bruton Smith's Kentucky Speedway? And that second Kansas Cup date?

 Bruton Smith: Why the sudden 'Whoa!' on that proposed Sprint Cup weekend at Kentucky Speedway? What's really going on behind the scenes between Smith and the France family and NASCAR. Remember Kansas Speedway is in this debate too (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   The future of Bruton Smith's Kentucky Speedway suddenly seems oddly murky.
    Just a few weeks ago the legal issues surrounding the track were eliminated, opening the way for Smith to ask NASCAR to let him move a Sprint Cup date to the track, just south of Cincinnati.
   However, surprisingly perhaps, Smith seems to be saying 'Whoa!'
   He's listing a number of factors to be considered before asking for a specific date change/swap. And he's apparently indicating no Cup date for Kentucky in 2011.
   In fact Smith says he hasn't even asked NASCAR for a Kentucky Cup date.
   Now it's been two years since Smith bought Kentucky, which hosts an annual Nationwide date in mid-June.
   Moving a Cup date to Kentucky might sound fairly simple, but Smith now says 'it's complicated.'
   But it shouldn't take two years to lay out a game plan.
   Of course NASCAR and the France family face a similar situation with the proposed second Kansas City Cup date for 2011.
   NASCAR has held the stance that 38 weeks of Cup racing is the max, and any new tracks or new race weekends will have to come at the expense of one of the current tracks.
   So where will that second Kansas date come from, at whose expense?
   And where might that new Kentucky Cup race come from, at whose expense?
   Smith appears worried that the issue involves not only moving a Cup date from one of his seven tracks to Kentucky,  but also involves the tour calendar itself.
    Can't race in December, for example, or January up there.
    Let's look deeper here.

    If a Kentucky Cup date has to come from one of Smith's SMI tracks...
    Well, this is the 2010 Bruton Smith calendar to work with:

    Feb. 28 – Las Vegas
    March 7 – Atlanta
    March 21 – Bristol
    April 18 – Texas
    May 22 – Charlotte (All-Star)
    May 30 – Charlotte (600)
    June 20 – Sonoma
    June 27 – New Hampshire
    Aug. 21 – Bristol
    Sept. 5 -- Atlanta
    Sept. 19 – New Hampshire
    Oct. 16 – Charlotte
    Nov. 7 – Texas
     Now, plug Kentucky Speedway into any one of those 12 specific weekends, and watch the domino-effect.

    And look at what could well  be Smith's 2011 NASCAR Cup calendar, and do the same:

    March 6   --     Las Vegas
    March 13 --   Atlanta
    March 20 --   Bristol
    April 3 --       Texas (NCAA Final Four weekend)
    May 21 --     Charlotte All-star
    May 29 --     Charlotte 600
    June 19 --     Sonoma/Infineon
    June 26 --     New Hampshire
    August 20 -- Bristol
    Sept  4  --    Atlanta (Labor Day weekend)
    Sept 18 --    New Hampshire
    Oct 15 --     Charlotte
    Nov 6  --      Texas

    Then also consider the weather....
    New Hampshire, for example, has a very short summer window for its two Cup races (and the September date is pretty late as it is).
    And consider the nearby competing tracks:  Michigan, Chicagoland, Indianapolis, Bristol and Nashville are all within about 230 miles – four or five hours driving – from Kentucky Speedway.
   For example, a Kentucky Cup race on that late June date would come only two weeks after a Cup race at Michigan, and only two weeks before the Cup race at Chicago. Giving Kentucky the Sonoma June date would present the same marketing issues.
    Atlanta has been one of Smith's weaker performing tracks, but the Labor Day weekend move may be a good one. The March race in Atlanta is frequently marred by weather...and it's not likely to be any warmer or drier in Cincinnati that weekend.

    Decisions ahead: ISC boss Lesa France Kennedy (L) and NASCAR boss Brian France (standing next to Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Junior Johnson) (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

There is also the lingering question of what the Cincinnati market would really bring to the sport anyway, what would it add?
     Cincinnati may be a nice town, but it's really not that huge a market. The Cincinnati Statistical Metropolitan Area (SMA) ranks only 24th in the U.S. (But then it is larger than Kansas City, which ranks 29th.)
     Seattle, New York City and Denver would be more important markets for the sport to add. (But those areas don't seem very interested in racing.)
     Maybe Smith and ISC's Lesa France Kennedy have secret plans to buy one of the few still independent Cup tracks (Pocono, Dover and Indianapolis are the only ones not owned by the sport's two giants)....
     Or maybe this was all simply a play within a play, with Smith having managed to help NASCAR by making that lawsuit go away, and thus earning some brownie points in Daytona?
    Maybe for that second Sprint Cup race in Las Vegas....

   Is this NASCAR's 2011 Sprint Cup schedule?

    (If NASCAR follows the 2010 schedule, taking into account Easter falling much later, April 24th, and using Mother's Day, Memorial  Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving as benchmarks, 2011 would probably look like this.  But then this doesn't include that second date in Kansas City....)

    Feb. 20       Daytona 500
    Feb. 27       California
    March 6      Las Vegas
    March 13    Atlanta
    March 20    Bristol
    March 27    Martinsville
    April 3        Texas (NCAA Final Four weekend)
    April 9        Phoenix (Saturday, Masters weekend)
    April 17      Talladega
    April 24      Easter (Nationwide Saturday in Nashville?)
    April 30      Richmond  (Saturday)
    May 7        Darlington (Saturday, Mother's Day weekend)
    May 15      Dover
    May 21      Charlotte All-star (Saturday)
    May 29      Charlotte 600
    June 5        Pocono
    June 12      Michigan
    June 19      Sonoma/Infineon
    June 26      New Hampshire
    July 2         Daytona (Saturday)
    July 9         Chicago (Saturday)
                     Off week
    July 24       Indianapolis
    July 31       Pocono
    August 7    Watkins Glen
    August 14  Michigan
    August 20  Bristol (Saturday)
                     Off week (Nationwide Montreal?)
    Sept  4      Atlanta (Labor Day weekend)
    Sept 10     Richmond (Saturday)
    Sept 18     New Hampshire
    Sept 25     Dover
    Oct 2        Kansas
    Oct 9        California
    Oct 15      Charlotte (Saturday)
    Oct 23      Martinsville
    Oct 30      Talladega
    Nov 6        Texas
    Nov 13      Phoenix
    Nov 20      Homestead-Miami

   'Brotherly' advice? Denny Hamlin (L) and teammate Joey Logano (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)



   Denny Hamlin has looked pretty cool under fire this season, and all those AnybodyButJimmie fans ought to be enjoying Hamlin's five wins in his last 10 starts.
    But Hamlin has had his moments this season...with Brad Keselowski a few times, with Clint Bowyer, even with teammate Kyle Busch.
    So Hamlin, as the de facto leader of the Joe Gibbs gang, might have some words of wisdom for younger teammate Joey Logano.
   "Me and Brad, to this day, probably still race each other just a little bit harder than I race anyone else, or I think he races anyone else, simply because we never did come to an agreement, or that we are doing this for this reason," Hamlin says.
    Come to think of it, when did this Hamlin-Keselowski get started anyway?
   "We never really had a talk," Hamlin concedes. "It gets better every time I race around him.
   "I think eventually it will all go away. 
    "It lasted longer than it should have."
    Well, maybe as a team leader, Hamlin should be setting the example.
    What does Hamlin think he should be telling Logano, in this Kevin Harvick thing?
    "Just talk to him  -- because if you don't, you still think you're right, the other guy still thinks he's right, and when you race around each other you just show no room," Hamlin says.
     Do as I say, not as I do?
     "I have no idea whether Harvick and Joey talked to each other after Bristol (the March Nationwide race)...but Harvick pretty much flat out took him out at Bristol, just to show him something, I don't know what," Hamlin says.
    "Whether they came to an understanding or not I'm not sure. 
     "But I know, coming down to the last few laps at Pocono, when you're racing a guy you don't agree with, you're not going to give an inch...and that's what caused that wreck -- neither of them wanted to give an inch, because if you let the guy go by, you're showing he's 'right.' That's just the way we think."
   Of course the Gibbs guys, during the Tony Stewart era, didn't seem to have much sway over each other, or much interest, to be honest. How much that has changed isn't clear...though the Hamlin-Busch thing at Charlotte would be a good indicator.
   How much sway Joe and J. D. Gibbs really have over their drivers isn't clear either. Whenever Stewart went on a tantrum, there didn't seem much control, more a shrug of the shoulders.
   Or maybe it's just that Hamlin listens to Joe and J.D., where Stewart and Busch haven't...
   The two Gibbs "are the guys that tell me what they think I should do whenever I get into something," Hamlin says.
   "Obviously they're going to protect him (Logano) the same way. 
    "My only thing is I wish he would say what he wants to say. He should be able to say anything he wants.
    "If you feel like you're wronged, you don't want to just go out there and wreck the guy; instead just take a gash out of him in the media.
     "If they didn't talk, it would just linger. 
     "If they just talked and said 'I feel like you raced me hard every time I'm around you: what do I have to do different?'
    "Then he respond, and you'll get an understanding.
    "I've had things happen with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. People don't see it, but behind closed doors I will talk to them: 'Hey man, why do I feel like you race me harder than you race everyone else?'
    "They give an explanation, and the next thing you know, it's clear sailing.
     "If you don't talk, you still have animosity."

   Talk about a 'just not your day,' Casey Mears certainly had one Sunday.
   He was stuck back in the pack, battling for 30th, with his own teammate, Scott Speed, in Sunday's Michigan 400.
   And then, going into the corner, Mears slid up into Speed.
   The two recovered, but a few moments later on pit road, as Mears was coming into his pit box, David Ragan was leaving his....and Mears' left-front fender got the worst of it. Mears had to go to the garage for some major repairs, and he wound up 36th.
    Speed finished 28th.

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  Joey Logano, in Kentucky Speedway's victory lane last Saturday night (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

What the real problem is

What the real problem is Money Bruton will have to spend 30 million dollars on grand stands and improvments that will take a few years to get back and he will turn a profit at any other of his speedways with an event and not have to lay out any extra cash and he also does not even have it to spend. If New Hampshire does not quit the penny pinching with the Police bill and the night racing ban they will be the loser in this eventually.

Why does Bruton have to spend

Why does Bruton have to spend anything on the grandstands? Because they're metal bleachers? So what? So far he's done the right thing - he's left the physical plant alone; his big mistake with his other tracks was trying to fix what wasn't broken.

And the night racing ban is right - the sport needs to get off night racing; it only belongs to the local tracks, not Winston Cup.

"Seattle, New York City and

"Seattle, New York City and Denver would be more important markets for the sport to add. (But those areas don't seem very interested in racing.)"

New York has Pocono, which is not too far away, and is the justification for having two boring races there.

But, what makes you say that Seattle (or the Pacific Northwest in general) and Denver aren't interested in racing?

Both areas host NHRA national events, and Denver is home to Furniture Row Racing, the only Cup team west of the Mississippi.

And the Pacific Northwest has produced some of the top drivers in NASCAR (Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Mike Bliss).

I think they both deserve a race. This is something that can get done with the proper degree of motivation.

Just say "no" to a second

Just say "no" to a second Kansas date.
I hope Bruton will get the Cup Series to a new venue in Kentucky, but it appears as though he's in no hurry and he's not going to dive in with this track as he has in getting some of his other tracks a date when he wanted one.
NASCAR has a track in the Denver market, and it's a unique track with it's shape and length. Pike's Peak International Raceway hosted 13 Nationwide and Truck Series races. ISC bought it, and then shut it down. No need to build another track in the Denver area. Just use the one they have. I'm all for it. No need to watch 4 boring races at Michifornia.

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