Kansas Speedway Next Destination For Racing Action

Photo by Jerry Jordan/Kickin' the Tires

By Jerry Jordan, Editor

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – This week marks the halfway point in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup Series Championship and after disastrous outings for five Chasers at Charlotte, the intensity at Kansas Speedway is expected to be off the chart.

It’s also the halfway point in the second round with a lot on the line for drivers wanting to be in a good position before heading to Talladega next week. Last year, the race at Kansas had dire consequences for, at least, one driver and this year Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin need to make up some serious points if they want to stay alive in NASCAR’s playoffs format.

For Clint Bowyer, Kansas represents home and even though 2016 hasn’t been the best for him on the track, he loves Kansas Speedway.

“Everybody in the garage area likes to go to Kansas and it’s not always that way,” Bowyer said. “You know, hell, everyone wants to poke fun at you for being from Kansas but I am telling you, Kansas Speedway and that area around there is great.”

Off the charts racing is a given at Kansas but for fans that want something to do away from the track the area around the speedway has exploded over the 16 years since the track was built. Restaurants, a shopping mall, hotels, two massive water parks and a full-service 24/7 world-class casino await NASCAR fans. In fact, Kansas Speedway has almost become its own little city on the outskirts of Kansas City’s downtown skyline.

“Part of the big story is that since we’ve opened, $500 million of private investment has come into the area within a mile of the track, none of which was here before, and we were really the instigator of that and what started the redevelopment of the area,” said Pat Warren, Kansas Speedway’s track president. “We have a beautiful mall just to the north of us, one of the world’s largest furniture and electronics stores – Nebraska Furniture Mart – owned by Warren Buffett, you’ve got Cabella’s, which was just purchased by Bass Pro, you’ve got hotels, a lot of things are very, very close to us.”

There is also a world class soccer stadium, baseball fields, a Russell Stover’s Candy Store and many other attractions just minutes from the track. So, for fans camping at the speedway or staying in the area’s hotels, a quick Uber ride or five to 10-minute walk is all it takes to see what’s happening away from the track.

“It’s a little bit like Daytona without the crossover pedestrian bridges, so there aren’t a lot of pedestrian crossings but it is an easy drive or we have plenty of parking and you are always going to have a shorter walk by parking on-site than anywhere else,” Warren said. “And if you want to take a little bit of a trip – 15-minutes at the most – you can go down to Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo. and it’s basically like the Magnificent Mile. It’s the best stores, the highest end in the world, a Tiffany’s and a huge Apple Store, so everything is just close and traffic isn’t a problem. Miles and minutes are about the equivalent throughout the city, so a 15-mile drive is about 15-minutes.”

But Warren said, some fans aren’t into the glitz and glamour and want to be in race-mode the entire weekend. For those fans, there is a lot to do at Kansas Speedway. Like most tracks, there is a fan zone with vendors that have set-up attractions, food, and fun for the entire family. There are manufacturer displays and product samples and autograph sessions and then, on race day, there are concerts and fans have the ability to attend the pre-race ceremonies, driver introductions and they can even sign the wall.

“All of our camping is sold-out,” Warren said, “which is great for us but unfortunate because we are still getting calls from fans, who want it, and that is both on the infield and outside the facility. You know, each campground, sort of, has its own culture and even different areas of the infield have their own culture or neighborhood. So, there is something for everyone. And, no offense to Dover (International Speedway) but I think we are the only track in the country and that literally has a world-class casino, on-property, that you can take a shuttle to and be on the gaming tables, in five minutes from any campsite.

“If you want to have a rowdy Talladega Boulevard feel, there’s that but it you want to have, sort of, a quiet weekend retreat where you head to another part of the infield and that is what you are going to get. Like any big event, sometimes we have challenges but most of our fans come back year after year, after year and they have found their spot and found their friends. It is interesting between the differences you see between the groups and their set-up to camp.”

An informal poll over the past five weeks, has found that despite speculation that fans are upset with NASCAR about rules changes or that the races “are boring,” the real reason why some fans aren’t going to as many races is because of finances and lack of time. It’s harder to get to as many races, so fans pick and choose which tracks they want to attend. And Kansas Speedway seems to be one of the tracks and that is higher on the list, possibly because of pricing, possibly because of location and perhaps because of the racing action, itself. Regardless the reason, Warren said, the entire spectacle at Kansas Speedway is the reason his camping is sold out but there are still grandstand tickets for fans wanting to see what happens this weekend when The Chase breaks out in the mid-west.

“There is no other sporting event, certainly not in Kansas City, where a fan can get so close,” Warren said. “I don’t know if it is just one thing that makes a difference or the overall opportunity to do so much in one day. But one of the biggest challenges, and I say this as a father of four, is finding the time for events because there are so many things going on in their lives. So, we have to find things to make people realize that it is not just a worthwhile event from a cost perspective but from a time perspective, as well. And we try to offer the best guest experience in motorsports.

“I wish I could tell you that we are going to be sold out but that doesn’t look like it is going to happen, right now. So, we do have tickets available and fans can call our 800-number at 1-800-460-RACE (6223), they can go online (www.nascar.com/tickets) or they can stop by the track, whatever is most convenient to the fans. We want to make it easy for them to buy tickets. Our youth tickets start at $29 for the Cup race and the adult tickets start at $89. So, for a family of four, it’s still a couple hundred dollar experience but it is less expensive than a (Kansas City) Royals game, an NFL game or any type of major sporting event that people are going to attend.”

On Saturday, there will be 2,500 Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts at the track with their parent, or guardian, and the ticket cost is used as a donation to the organizations. It’s a chance to get young people to the track and get them interested in racing at an early age. Next year, there will be no cost for youth tickets to the Xfinity Series and Camping World Trucks Series races and this year the cost is only $15.

“We want them to have a great time because we are trying to build that next generation of race fan,” Warren said.

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