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Speedway on track for spring opening

BY LAUREL BLACK lblack@paducahsun.com

Under new ownership, the Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway is revving up to open as soon as late March.

Co-owner Jim Hale, who purchased the property at an auction last summer with fellow Hopkinsville businessman Ronnie Jones, said they have been working for the past few months to whip it into race-ready shape.

The pair hired general manager Tommy House, a Cadiz resident and longtime NASCAR employee, as general manager the day they won the $990,000 bid on the property, House said.

House called the speedway, located immediately off Interstate 24's Exit 27 at Calvert City, a first-class racing facility.

"The people that built the place spared no money," House said.

House said that since the property has been sitting more or less dormant about three years, it required some upgrades. Preparing the track for racing has been House's top priority, but damp weather has made sifting the larger rocks from the dirt track difficult, he said.

"We'd been working at it until this weather set in. It's been graded, it's been bulldozed, it's been raked. We've gotten a lot of rocks out of it, but we're not through," he said. "We want the competitors to come and enjoy racing there and know they don't have to wear a steel helmet."

Although House does not want to set a firm race schedule until the track is closer to completion, he said a National Dirt Racing League-sanctioned race is in the works for the last week of March.

In addition to upgrading the track, the team has made several other repairs, which Hale estimated to cost more than $100,000. The work consisted of painting, track cleanup, repairs to the heating and air systems, and other general maintenance.

"When you've got that many different toilets and doors and stuff, it doesn't take long for what you think might be a $5 item to wind up being a $5,000 item," Hale said.

Hale added he and Jones have been working to prove to the community that they're serious about opening a fully operational race track, with races and other events scheduled every week.

An agenda for the Marshall County Fiscal Court's meeting Tuesday lists the application for an entertainment permit for the Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway as a new business item. Hale said they expect to receive the permit within the next few weeks.

In terms of when the track holds its first event, Hale said, "Mother Nature is probably going to be the big deciding factor."

Hale and Jones submitted the winning bid on the speedway and an adjacent 317-acre plot of undeveloped land in late June during an absolute auction of the property by J.P. King Auction Company. That marked the second time the company auctioned the property, as previous track owner Sherri Heckenast of Chicago bought the track at an auction in 2004 for $1.6 million.

"We think the area could stand a little injection of money and people, and I guess we always kind of wondered why it (the speedway) has never done better," Hale said.

Hale added that no plans are in place for the undeveloped plot.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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