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Loss of race long-term pain, but short-term gain for track

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The loss of the NASCAR Nationwide race in 2012 and beyond is likely to be a long-term financial pain for Lucas Oil Raceway, but is turning out to be a short-term gain.

Officials for the track in Clermont reported Monday that ticket sales for this year’s Nationwide race on July 30 are up “significantly” since the July 6 announcement that the race will move to Indianapolis Motor Speedway after this year.

“Our phones started ringing almost immediately after the announcement,” said Lucas Oil Raceway spokesman Scott Smith. “We’ve definitely seen a spike in interest, and that has translated to a spike in ticket sales.”

Lucas Oil Raceway officials won’t divulge the track’s capacity, but Smith said this year is likely to be the first sellout of the Nationwide race since 2004.

“Believe me, this is not a promoter’s trick,” Smith said. “We wish circumstances were different. But it would certainly be a fitting way to send this race off.”

This year’s Nationwide race, the Kroger 200, marks the 30th anniversary of the race at the track. The race has considerable history, with past winners including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jason Leffler, Brian Vickers and Greg Biffle. Ticket prices range from $15 for children to $67.

Smith said the race, which has traditionally taken place the night before the Brickyard 400 at IMS, is one of the three biggest annual events at the Clermont track.

While track officials are focusing on selling out this year’s race, they’re also in discussions to fill the weekend calendar spot to be vacated by NASCAR next year with another race. In addition to the Nationwide race, the track will lose the AAA Insurance 200, a NASCAR truck race, scheduled this year for July 29.

“We’ve been deluged by many sanctioning bodies interested in holding a race here that weekend,” Smith said. “So we’re asking ourselves, is there something new we can do? That weekend is still a very strong racing weekend in Indianapolis, and we still feel like there are good events we can hold at our facility that weekend. It’s a clean slate for us, and an interesting time.”

Smith added that any new race planned for that weekend would use the facility's oval track and not the drag strip or road course.

Lucas Oil Raceway, formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park, is owned by the California-based National Hot Rod Association and is home to the nation’s biggest annual drag race, MAC Tools U. S. Nationals, which is held during Labor Day weekend.

 

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