Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

July 10, 2013

Running the Point

By MacKenzie Bates - Sports Editor
Journal-Times

July 10, 2013 — The Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta is in the books after another successful run for NASCAR in the Bluegrass State.

After the first two seasons of traffic nightmares and dreadful heat, the race was postponed after rains fell on the track Saturday night.

But for race fans in the Commonwealth, it is still a welcomed event that draws thousands from Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio to see some of the best drivers in the world compete for their entertainment.

Kentucky sports fans in general have yearned for a professional sports team to locate within the state lines. Whether it is in Lexington or Louisville, basketball or football, the dream is to have a pro team of any sport relocate or expand in the area.

While many talks have stalled to potentially house a sports team in let us say, the YUM! Center in Louisville, the Sprint Cup Race held in Sparta is the closest thing Kentucky could have to a professional sporting event for quite some time.

The local economy for the small town of Sparta inside Gallatin and Owen counties see a boom for three days. Officials from Kentucky Speedway predict $150 million annually is pumped into the state just because of the weekend that brings in fans to see races. The numbers are still unknown whether or not that actual amount was reached but with 107,000 fans showing up to the race in 2011 and 105,000 last year, it is a good idea to say the economy did well during those times.

It is results like these that show many people believe in professional sporting events in this state. While many say the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team could be considered a “pro” team with the top-notch recruits they get, it is not the same as having a Major League Baseball or National Basketball Association team housed in the state.

The nearest pro teams are just across the Ohio River with the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals and Kentucky residents do flock to the Buckeye State to claim those teams as their own. But the pride of having an instate team still fuels the flame for one day.

But with NASCAR always looking to invade new territory, the Quaker State 400 might not be around forever. But if fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and many others continue to come out and see them race, it could stay here for a long time.

It is the closest thing Kentucky citizens have to a professional sporting event. And hopefully it will be the precursor to something bigger.

As long as there is support for it.

MacKenzie Bates can be reached at mbates@themoreheadnews.com or by telephone at 784-4116.