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Kansas Speedway expected to receive second Sprint Cup date on Tuesday

Kansas Speedway’s dream is expected to come true on Tuesday.

That’s the day NASCAR plans to make a formal announcement that a second Sprint Cup weekend will be granted to Kansas Speedway for 2011.

Kansas’ receiving a second date is part of several changes to the NASCAR schedule that will be announced early next week. Chicagoland Speedway has scheduled a Monday news conference to announce it will move its July date to September and kick off the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2011.

Chicago would replace Auto Club Speedway in California as part of the Chase. Auto Club Speedway, also owned by ISC, will relinquish one of its two Cup dates, and that’s apparently the one going to Kansas Speedway.

Also, Kentucky Speedway has scheduled a news conference to announce it will receive one of the two Sprint Cup dates from its sister track Atlanta, which has drawn poorly for its early March date.

While Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren has not received formal notification from NASCAR, he said, “We fully expect when the schedule is announced, or when they at least tell us what our portion of the schedule will be, that we anticipate next year we will have two Sprint Cup races."

Lesa France Kennedy, chief executive officer of International Speedway Corp., owner of Kansas Speedway, petitioned NASCAR’s board of directors for a second date if the state of Kansas approved the Hollywood Casino that is now under construction at the track.

That was a mere formality considering Kennedy was a driving force in the design and construction of Kansas Speedway, and the board consists of Kennedy, her brother, NASCAR Chairman Brian France; her uncle James C. France, NASCAR president Mike Helton and NASCAR senior vice president Gary Crotty.

A second Cup race would mean an additional $100 million a year in economic impact, according to studies commissioned by the speedway. The two current race weekends produce an impact of about $243 million.

“One of the great attributes this track has is the France family,” said Kevin Gray, president of the Kansas City Sports Commission. “They’re as strong as it gets when it comes to auto racing. This is a great opportunity for our community, and from an economic standpoint, it’s a significant shot in the arm.

“They’ve done their homework and research on the market issues, and obviously they feel comfortable with it. “

Kansas Speedway currently occupies the first weekend of October, which is the third race in the chase for the Sprint Cup. The track is expected to maintain that date, and the second date likely will be in the late spring to avoid cold weather but before the heat of summer arrives.

That could play havoc with the annual Indy Racing League weekend, which this year was the first weekend of May. It’s possible Kansas Speedway will be giving up the Indy Car Series for the second NASCAR weekend.

This was the first year since opening in 2001 that Kansas Speedway broke up its season ticket, allowing fans to buy the Indy Car series weekend separately from the NASCAR weekend. The crowds for the Indy Car and Camping World Truck Series races were no more than 50,000 each day in the 82,000-seat facility compared with the approximate 100,000 that regularly fill the stands, infield and RV lots for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series events.

If there is no Indy Car race, the trucks series will likely run as a companion event to one Cup weekend and Nationwide Series will pair with the other Cup weekend.

“Indy Car doesn’t have its schedule yet,” said Warren, who wasn’t sure if the series will fit in Kansas Speedway’s schedule. “We’re still working with them. We’re still hopeful, but I just don’t know.”

While the economy and other factors have caused attendance to decrease at several tracks, that hasn’t been the case at Kansas, though its capacity is considerably less than tracks such as Atlanta (115,000 seating), Michigan (119,000), Texas (138,122) and Indianapolis (250,0000).

“I think Kansas is deserving of a second date,” said Sprint Cup driver Clint Bowyer of Emporia. “Every time we go there it’s a packed house, sold out. Great market, and it’s home for me, but I think it’s a fun city and everybody looks forward to going to. It’s a first-class facility, and they’re building a new casino. It’s just a cool place.”

Kansas Lt. Gov. Troy Findley, who appeared at the ground breaking of the Hollywood Casino earlier this year, is scheduled to appear at a Tuesday news conference at Kansas Speedway, according to the web site of Gov. Mark Parkinson.

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