NASCAR’s France endorses two Cup races for Kansas Speedway

Brian France and Mike Helton, two of NASCAR’s most powerful decision-makers, left little doubt that Kansas Speedway will have a second Sprint Cup race as soon as 2010 and no later than 2011.

“With all the development and all the things going on, I think it’s great if there’s an opportunity to have a second date, and it looks like there will be,” France, NASCAR Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, told The Star before Sunday’s Sprint Cup Camping World RV 400 race at Kansas Speedway.

France then took it a step further when asked, as a member of NASCAR’s Board of Directors, how he will vote on Kansas Speedway’s petition for a second date.

“That’s a yes. That’s a very definite yes,” France said. “Obviously, that has to be petitioned by speedway and ISC, and I assume they will do that at some point.”

France’s sister, Lesa France Kennedy, president of International Speedway Corporation, owner of Kansas Speedway, has committed to asking NASCAR’s board of directors for a second Sprint Cup weekend now that the $700 million Hard Rock Hotel and Casino project will be part of the facility.

That should be a formality, considering the board is made up of Kennedy, France, their uncle, NASCAR vice-chairman Jim France; and two of their trusted executives, NASCAR secretary/general counsel Gary Crotty and Helton, NASCAR president.

“Lesa has always been a big proponent of Kansas City as a great NASCAR market,” Brian France said. “What we have said is this is a market that can definitely do very well with two Sprint Cup races, and we think it will.”

Even though a temporary casino will be erected in 2009, next year’s NASCAR schedule is set, so the earliest a second race could be held at Kansas is 2010.

“Our job is to make sure the market works,” France said, wearing his ISC hat, “and it’s (NASCAR’s) job to figure out when they want to transfer it in.”

France said it was his expectation that one of two races at Kansas would remain as part of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, just as it has been since it was inaugurated in 2004.

Once the Board of Directors receives ISC’s proposal, the NASCAR schedule will have to be realigned to accommodate the second race. Kennedy has said the second date would come from one of the 12 tracks ISC owns or operates. Speculation has centered on ISC’s taking one of the two dates held by California Speedway or Martinsville unless the company purchases another track that has two dates.

“Our experience with (schedule) realignment requests from ISC and Speedway Motorsports and others are pretty well thought out,” Helton told The Star. “When they come to us, we work with the promoter and generally come up with a resolve to it.

“Kansas City has turned out to be a very premier stop for us. “It’s obvious by the support the facility is tremendous, the development around here is very supportive of NASCAR Kansas City has a lot to offer.”

Kansas Speedway opened in 2001 and its NASCAR events attracted overflow crowds in its first seven years.

But this was the first year the Cup weekend did not sell out in advance. However, France said he was confident Kansas Speedway could sell out two Cup weekends.

Helton was just as optimistic.

“I would tell you,” Helton said, with a sparkle in his eye, “we really like racing here.”