Many diehard NASCAR fans in the Mid-western United States who don’t have a nearby speedway have to travel far and wide to be able to see their favorite teams and drivers perform. For fans who live in Kansas City, the exact opposite is true.
Thanks to the Kansas Speedway that opened in 2001, racing fans in Kansas City and nearby areas have had ample opportunity to see the best drivers in the world compete in multiple racing formats.
And for NASCAR fans it got even better in 2011 when the speedway became a double feature on the NASCAR calendar with the KC Masterpiece 400 in the spring and the Hollywood Casino 400 in the fall. The latter, usually scheduled for the third week of October, comes right in the thick of the annual playoff battle.
All told the venue is proud to represent Cup Series, Xfinity Series, Truck Series and ARCA Series racing. In fact, it was an ARCA Racing Series race on June 2, 2001, that will forever be remembered as the track’s inaugural race.
Hosting one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event per year is a pretty big deal. Having two separate NASCAR weekends is huge.
But it wasn’t always this way for Kansas Speedway. At first the situation was actually a split of two weekends between NASCAR and IndyCar Series. That scheduling lasted until 2011 when the track discontinued IRL races and swapped in a second NASCAR event.
In terms of records, Kansas Speedway has some interesting ones.
In the 18 years of existence, the Hollywood Casino 400 has seen six different drivers win the race twice.
The first to do so was Jeff Gordon who won the inaugural race and repeated the feat immediately the following season. Fellow two-time winners include Tony Stewart (2006, 2009), Greg Biffle (2007, 2010), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2011), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2016) and Joey Logano (2014, 2015).
Gordon, Johnson, and most recently Harvick each also have a win at the track’s other Cup Series race, the KC Masterpiece 400. So far, in eight years of existence, no one has managed to that event more than once.
Now that we’ve taken a brief peek at some of the track’s nearly two-decade history, let’s see what other cool stories and statistics it has to offer.
In 1996 the International Speedway Corporation wrestled with the idea of building the first Midwestern racing complex that could compete at the highest level and host large IndyCar Series and NASCAR-sized crowds.
Located on the border between Missouri and Kansas, Kansas City stood out as the best location for the new facility.
Different parts of Kansas City competed to have the track built and in 1997 officials decided that the side of the city in the state of Kansas would be awarded the rights to construct the speedway.
In many ways, the area had won the economic lottery. Over the years several new commercial businesses sprung up in and around the area due in large part to the speedway. An estimated 5,000 new jobs were created, 4,000 of which were directly related to the track.
An economic survey in 2008 reported that the venue was bringing in more than $243 million in annual revenue for the state.
Initial plans to construct a 75,000 seat stadium were expanded to 82,000 when ticket demand exceeded expectation and viewership numbers from both racing leagues were trending favorably.
Unfortunately, those numbers, both ratings and stadium seating, have declined in recent years. After initials cuts brought the capacity down to 64,000, the seating was reduced once again in 2019 to its current maximum of 48,000 as viewership and attendance numbers continue to dip across all of NASCAR.
A lot went down at Kansas Speedway in 2011. After a decade of IndyCar Series competition, the track decided to cut ties with the Indy Racing League (IRL). There was a silver lining, however, as the track was granted a second NASCAR Cup Series race, the KC Masterpiece 400.
Eventually, this race would swap dates with Darlington’s Southern 500 and be held under the lights for the first time in 2014.
The lighting system was added to the stadium in 2011 mainly for dealing with potential weather delays.
The change in 2014 made the Cup Series race a night race from the start. The track’s other race, the Hollywood Casino 400 in the fall, remains a daytime race.
It should be mentioned, however, that the track did already host night races in 2011 in ARCA Series events.
In case you’re wondering why the fall playoff race is called the Hollywood Casino 400, well, there is a very obvious explanation for it.
In 2012 the speedway ownership group joined forces with Penn National Gaming and invested $380 million into the development of a brand new state-of-the-art casino and hotel complex called the Hollywood Hotel and Casino.
The massive hotel/casino, which covers more than 100,000 square feet and has over 2,300 slot machines, 61 table games, and 25 poker tables, has views of the track above turn two. The casino is wildly successful both during and in between scheduled NASCAR racing weekends.
Thus far the development has proven to be a massive success and has been a major windfall for the local economy. Rough estimates have yearly tourist visitation numbers around 440,000 and the facility has created nearly 1,000 full-time jobs for residents.
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