GILBERTSVILLE – Born in controversy, operating in uncertainty for much of its existence, deteriorating in inactivity for the past two years, Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway is on the verge of rising from the ashes.
At least, area stock car racers and many fans hope so.
Conversation, both verbal and in various Internet forums and social media, has been buzzing throughout much of this year about someone purchasing the track, which has been for sale for the past two years.
Indications are that there is some substance to the buzz.
“There have been several people talking about buying it all summer,” Cameron Brown, a second-generation driver from Calvert City, confirmed last week.
The track is owned by Sherri Heckenast, a Chicago-area native who took over her father’s automotive recycling business after he had heart surgery when she was 25. Under Heckenast’s ownership, KLMS was in operation for four years. In September 2009, Heckenast announced she was putting the Gilbertsville track up for sale.
Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway opened in late 1997. A 3/8-mile dirt track, located in the southeast corner of the intersection of Interstate 24 and the Purchase Parkway in northern Marshall County, it was built by two local men, Dwight and Keith Greer.
Frank Heckenast and his daughter purchased the track in 2005. The property was sold at auction after the Greers filed for bankruptcy.
Heckenast purchased the speedway for $1.45 million. She is reportedly asking $1.4 million to sell it.
Brown said his father, Tim, owner of Custom Automotive in Calvert City, is in regular contact with Shane McMartin, Heckenast’s husband.
“The owners have talked about running a limited schedule if they can’t sell it, rather than just letting it sit,” Cameron Brown said.
To build the speedway, the Greers first had to overcome opposition from property owners in the area. There were delays in getting construction completed.
Richard Cunningham, an auto racing marketing and media specialist from Madisonville, was hired as promoter and general manager. His plan was to run a full first season and then cut back to a schedule of special events only, rather than an every-weekend program.
Plans for big-money events featuring top dirt-track drivers from around the country were in the works even before the track opened.
“Keith and Dwight had been on the UMP Summer Nationals schedule” for the 1996 and 1997 seasons, Cunningham said, but did not get the track built in time to present those programs.
“We opened in October 1997 and ran two Friday nights while Paducah finished their season,” Cunningham said. “Then we switched to Saturday nights” to avoid conflict with Marshall County High School football.
PIR, which now presents races on Friday nights, was operating on Saturdays at that time.
Three Saturday night races were scheduled, but one was rained out.
KLMS ran a weekly program on Saturdays in 1998, and then switched to a limited schedule.
Since the Gilbertsville track closed, PIR no longer has to compete for fans and racers. In mid-2011, PIR dropped the top class, Late Model, from its regular Friday night program at mid-season. The high-powered, high-dollar cars competed only seven times in the last 13 weeks of the season.
Drivers, especially in the Late Model class, are hoping Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway will re-open to give them a place to race locally.