Originally created 05/08/00

Illinois, Kansas tracks added to NASCAR schedule



Races at new tracks in Joliet, Ill., and Kansas City, Kan., will expand the Winston Cup schedule to 36 events in 2001.

The announcements were made Monday at Chicagoland Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

The first weekend of racing at the Illinois track, about 30 miles from Chicago, will include a NASCAR Busch Series race on July 14, 2001, followed by a Winston Cup race on July 15. Chicagoland Speedway will also hold an Indy Racing League event Sept. 2.

The Kansas track, about 10 miles from downtown Kansas City, Mo., will play host to an IRL race July 8, 2001, a Busch Series race on Sept. 29 and a Winston Cup event Sept. 30.

Both tracks are nearing completion and will seat 75,000 around a 1'-mile oval.

The new races are being folded into an already crowded schedule that runs from early February to mid-November. The Winston Cup schedule will cover 38 weeks, including two non-points events -- The Bud Shootout and The Winston.

Mike Helton, senior vice president and chief operating officer of NASCAR, said he has spoken with many teams about the additions to the schedule.

"Part of them say, `We're racers. We'll go 52 weeks a year,"' he told The Associated Press. "Others just say the additional races make sense in the overall scheme of things and they'll do what they need to do."

Helton said NASCAR is wary of increasing the number of races in its top stock car series.

"For us to add races to grow the sport, we knew it had to be major, major opportunities," he said. "That's what Chicago and Kansas City represent for us. By bringing out competitors to these major markets, we are creating the greatest overall awareness and enthusiasm for our sport."

Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, California Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway -- all added to the schedule since 1997 -- have been clamoring for a second race, as has Phoenix International Raceway, on the Winston Cup schedule since 1988.

But Helton said that probably won't happen under NASCAR's current plans.

"Our strategy for growth does not include going back to tracks which already have a race," he said.

Helton did not say if that strategy might include taking away races from the 12 tracks that have two events each year to facilitate.

There is speculation Darlington Speedway, NASCAR's original superspeedway, Pocono International Raceway and North Carolina Speedway could each lose one race to expansion in the next few years.

As for further growth, Helton said: "It's a matter of taking advantage of new opportunities, not just adding races to the schedule."

Driver Sterling Marlin agreed.

"People want their racing," he said. "Television is fine for the most part, but they want a chance to be there, too.

"These two tracks will cover two areas that weren't covered. You start looking around and about all that's left is Denver and the Northwest."

International Speedway Corp., directed by the family of the late Bill France Sr., founder of NASCAR, owns the track in Kansas. He is a partner, along with Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and founder of the Indy Racing League, in the Joliet track.