Lights will go on at Kansas Speedway

Kansas Speedway will celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2011 with two NASCAR Sprint Cup weekends _ one in June, the other in October _ and lights for the facility.

Lesa France Kennedy, chief executive officer of International Speedway Corp., will appear at a news conference Tuesday morning at Kansas Speedway and formally announce the specific dates. Kansas Speedway, which opened in 2001 with one Sprint Cup race a year, will be one of 13 tracks to have two Cup weekends.

Kennedy, who was a driving force behind the design and construction of Kansas Speedway, pledged to petition 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.

Kansas Speedway began asking ISC for lights when the track hosted Indy Racing League and NASCAR Camping World Trucks series events during 2001-2006 on July 4 weekends that proved to be uncomfortably hot for fans and competitors.

The addition of lights was estimated to cost in excess of $2 million at the time Kansas Speedway began requesting them.

But when ISC did not approve the installation of lights, Kansas Speedway eventually moved those races to late April and early May in 2007. Now, with a Cup weekend in June and the casino in operation around the clock in 2011, the timing was right for lights at the track.

“The lights are going up,” said Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren, “but whether we have a night race next year is still a question. The lights won’t be functioning this fall, but they’ll be completed by next spring.”

Still to be determined is what effect a June NASCAR weekend will have on the Indy Racing League weekend at Kansas Speedway. This year's IndyCar Series race was held on May 1, but it's doubtful the speedway will schedule a Sprint Cup and IRL weekend so close together.

The Indy Racing League is expected to announce its schedule in the next month.

The June date for Kansas Speedway is part of a domino effect resulting from changes to other tracks owned by ISC _ Chicagoland Speedway and Auto Club Speedway of California.

NASCAR confirmed Monday that Chicagoland Speedway will open the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Sept. 18, replacing Auto Club Speedway among the 10 Chase tracks.

Chicagoland has had a race in July since its first race in 2001. Since the Chase started in 2004, New Hampshire has opened the Chase.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations, said no other Chase venues will change, meaning Kansas will maintain its October date, most likely as the fourth race in the Chase, following Chicago, New Hampshire and Dover, Del.

Auto Club Speedway _ which had sold out its Sprint Cup races each year from 1997 to 2003 when it had only one event but struggled to fill seats twice a year _ will maintain its February date.

"What we’ve done is ultimately give each track the best opportunity to succeed,” O’Donnell said at a news conference in Chicago. “California we think has a much better date for them, kind of back to their traditional date they used to have in the California marketplace that worked well for them.”

Two other tracks have press conferences scheduled today to announce dates for 2011. At 1 p.m., Kentucky Speedway, which is taking one of Atlanta Motor Speedway’s dates, will announce its first Sprint Cup race. And New Hampshire Motor Speedway has called a 1:30 p.m. news conference to announce its 2011 schedule.

Kennedy will be joined at Kansas Speedway’s announcement by Lt. Governor Troy Findley, Unified Government of Wyandotte County Mayor Joe Reardon and Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren.