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Crowd of 120K Expected for Kentucky Races

July 5, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Kentucky campground braces for big influx of NASCAR campers

More than 120,000 NASCAR fans are expected to come to Kentucky’s Gallatin County this week to see Kentucky Speedway’s first Sprint Cup race, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Ask residents whether the community is ready, and they’ll typically answer the way Gallatin County Judge-Executive Ken McFarland did last week.

“Are we prepared? We’re prepared as we can be,” McFarland said in his office in Warsaw, the county seat, with 1,600 residents, north of Sparta, the speedway’s home. “This is going to be a learning experience.”

The race is a big deal not only because Kentucky Speedway is the first new track to join the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule since 2001.

And it’s a big deal not only because Saturday’s Quaker State 400 will cap three days of a racing triple-header. The Camping World Truck Series race will be Thursday, followed by the Nationwide Series Feed the Children 300 on Friday.

But it’s also a big deal because Speedway Motorsports Inc. owner and chief executive Bruton Smith, Gov. Steve Beshear and others anticipate that the economic impact will be an estimated $150 million. For comparison, the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games had an economic impact of $201.5 million, according to a financial study commissioned by the state.

Farmers and other landowners are allowing their land to be used as temporary RV parks and campgrounds. McFarland, Gallatin’s judge-executive, said permits had been issued for 15 to 20 temporary parks.

Edge of Speedway Campground, an RV park, has rented all of its 600 sites on the west side of the speedway, co-owner Fred Berkshire said. Sites with electricity have been rented for two months.

“For the Nationwide race, which used to be just a single event, I would normally do 165 to 185 sites. So this is tripling that, and then some,” Berkshire said.

Keeping the property mowed in a wet year has been a struggle, and improvements to the RV park have been expensive. Those include putting down gravel for more than a mile of road in the park.

“Just this past year, I spent $150,000. I bought probably 227 tri-axle loads of gravel,” Berkshire said. “And there are 22 to 25 tons in each one of those tri-axles. But I’ve been self-employed all my life, and this is my 401(k).”

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