GILBERTSVILLE – Ronnie Jones and Jim Hale came from Hopkinsville to northern Marshall County on Thursday morning with the intention of buying a racetrack.
A few hours and $900,000 later, their mission was accomplished.
Their bid was the top offer for the 3/8-mile dirt Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway oval and an adjoining section of property at an absolute auction of the property by J.P. King Auction Co. The purchase price, including a 10 percent auctioneer’s fee, totaled $990,000.
Jones joked that they “came up here on a whim,” and added, “It could be a deadly whim when I get back home and my wife finds out how much I spent.”
But he clarified that he and Hale have been making plans to acquire the track ever since the auction date was announced.
“We’ve been having some discussions,” he said. “Now that we’re in the middle of it, it’s time to get going and try to bring it back.”
The sellers were Shayne McMartin and hiw wife, Sherri Heckenast. Heckenast, of Frankfort, Ill., purchased the track at auction in 2005. The property brought $1,622,500 then.
Jones is owner of Jones Brothers Towing and Trucking. He and Hale both have a long-term interest in racing and have sponsored cars of local racers.
Both men emphasized their intention to revive KLMS, which has been dormant for most of the past half-decade, and make it even better than it was in its first decade of operation.
That will make the track quite a showplace, as it was already regarded as one of the finest short tracks in the region.
“Our plan all along was to build it up a little bit,” said Hale. “This track has always been referred to as the Taj Mahal of dirt tracks. We want to make it even better for the fans.”
It also comes as good news to racers, who found out Friday night that Paducah International Raceway, less than 20 miles away in southern McCracken County, will not be reopening for regular weekly racing, but instead will stage only special events.
“We want to work with the racers,” Hale said. “I’ve already met several of them here today, and they’re excited.”
Tim Brown of Palma, who won the track championship in the Super Late Model division in 2000, confirmed that statement.
“I love to hear that,” he said. “We need to get some racing going. This has been a good track.”
His son, Cameron, grew up watching Brown race at Kentucky Lake and other area tracks. He began racing three years ago, and has never had a chance to drive at the Marshall County oval.
“I’ve been wanting to race here just about all my life,” he said. “This is a dream come true.”
The new owners acquired the track and all improvements to the 151-acre property, including modern aluminum grandstands and buildings that house concession, office and track administration facilities, plus tractors and miscellaneous track maintenance equipment, an electronic timing system plus an adjacent undeveloped tract of some 317 acres.
According to J.P. King, the track sale attracted interest from potential bidders in10 states.
McMartin said he was pleased to learn that the new owners of the property bought it to reopen it as a racetrack.
“We’ve been involved in motor sports for a long time and have friends that are involved in it as well,” he said, “and we know how important it is to this community. We’re looking forward to kids and families still being able to come here and grow up with the experience the Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway offers.”
The track was built by Dwight and Keith Greer of Marshall County and opened in 1997.
Those present for the auction included Paducah International Raceway owner Bob Sargent and NASCAR driver Ken Schrader, a partner with Sargent and owner of I-55 Raceways in Pevely, Mo., and William Scogin, owner of Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway.