PADUCAH – Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, a part-owner since 2005 of Paducah International Raceway, will headline a contingent of drivers appearing at the track’s annual NASCAR Night tonight.
The promotion is the first of several early-summer motor sports specials on tap in the Jackson Purchase. The Marshall County A&I Fair at H.H. Lovett Park in Benton will include a schedule of automotive events June 5-9.
Last year’s NASCAR Night at PIR was lost to weather, but the special is an annual event on the PIR schedule. Stewart joined Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ken Schrader in purchasing a stake in the track along with majority owner Bob Sargent the year he won the second of his three Cup Series championship titles. He won his first Cup in 2002.
The Columbus, Ind., native will compete in the UMP Late Model division feature against regulars including Benton dirt-track professional Terry English and his son, Tanner, plus Calvert City’s Tim Brown and others.
Schrader and Wallace will race in the Modified division.
All seats are general admission, at $20 for adults and $5 for children. Gates open at 5 p.m., with racing scheduled to start at 7:30. A meet-and-greet session with the NASCAR drivers is scheduled after the races in the track’s pit area.
Following Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Stewart was scheduled to fly from Concord, N.C., to Macon, Ill., where he will race at Macon Speedway on Monday night.
Stewart has a special connection to Marshall County through Scott Lathram, who served as helicopter pilot for the driver in 2004. Lathram was one of 10 people who were killed in the crash of a private aircraft near Martinsville, Va., in October of that year. The former Kentucky State Police officer and Army Reserve helicopter pilot was 38.
At the Benton fairgrounds, five evenings will feature motor sports events, including a go-kart race on Tuesday, June 5, and competition for 4-Cylinder Warrior racecars, subcompact sports sedans with four-cylinder engines, on Wednesday, June 6.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday will feature truck and tractor pulls, mud drags and an ATV rodeo and a demolition derby.
Last year’s fair included the Warrior races, a first for the fairgrounds. Jeffrey Bailey of Calvert City won the main event.
Also scheduled are two special events at the Paducah track.
The Tri-State Challenge will feature big-money races at Highland (Ill.) Speedway, Paducah and Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. The PIR event will be on Friday, June 1, the middle of three races on three consecutive nights.
To close out June, the UMP Dirtcar Summer Nationals tour, a series of races at 24 tracks from Michigan and Wisconsin to the Mid-South region, will stop at Paducah on Friday night, June 29.
The Paducah race will be the 15th in the first 17 nights of the series, which begins June 13 at Brownstown, Ind., and ends July 14 at Wauseon, Ohio.