Honk! Honk! Kentucky Speedway fix your traffic problems
Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
Sparta, KY (Sports Network) -
Officials from Kentucky Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Inc. certainly have their work cut out in regards to traffic issues before NASCAR's premier series returns to the 1.5-mile track next year.
Saturday's inaugural Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky was marred by a traffic snarl that reached as far back as 15-20 miles from the racetrack. Most ticket holders were stuck in traffic for hours on Interstate 71 and other roads leading into the track, located roughly 40 miles south of downtown Cincinnati.
Since the speedway was built in 2000, it had been lobbying NASCAR for a Sprint Cup date. SMI purchased the track in 2008. NASCAR awarded the speedway a Cup race last year when SMI announced it would move one of its two Atlanta events to Kentucky.
The "Bluegrass State" was abuzz when it was revealed that Sprint Cup racing was coming to town.
Build it, and they will come. That's exactly what 107,000-plus race fans were expecting to do for the Quaker State 400, but thousands of fans did not get to see Kyle Busch win the race. Halfway through the 400-miler, many had to turn around when parking at the track was no longer available. Others still stuck in the gridlock also had to make a U-turn to allow authorities to create an outbound flow of traffic after the conclusion of the event.
Fans immediately expressed their anger on the social media websites Facebook and Twitter. In fact, NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin, who was one of those stuck in traffic for hours, tweeted, "Good news bad news/bad news is I'm prolly not gonna make the drivers meeting in 3 hrs because I'm in this traffic with everyone else." He then noted, "Good news, I'm starting in the back anyway." Hamlin had to start from the rear of the field due to an engine change.
Thousands of fans did not get to see Kyle Busch win the race due to traffic.
Track officials faced a nightmare and a huge embarrassment, which forced them to quickly issue an apology.
"Kentucky Speedway apologizes for the traffic conditions surrounding the Quaker State 400," track general manager Mark Simendinger said in a statement. "We're committed to working with NASCAR, state and local officials and traffic experts to assure that this never happens again. The details of these improvements will be announced over time as they are formulated.
"We also recognize the traffic problems resulted in some fans not being able to attend the Quaker State 400. We are gathering information on this and will announce a policy for these affected fans within seven days."
Track personnel also invited ticket holders to share their experiences by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm sure the mail box is quite overflowed right now.
NASCAR responded to the traffic issue on Sunday.
"While NASCAR was thrilled by the incredible response to our inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Kentucky, we also are extremely disappointed by the traffic problems and inconveniences endured by fans who wanted to be part of our races at Kentucky Speedway," NASCAR chairman and chief executive officer Brian France said in a statement. "NASCAR will be in close communications with Kentucky Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Inc. to see that they work to resolve the issues. This situation cannot happen again."
The State of Kentucky plans to work with track officials to fix the traffic and parking problems when the series is expected to return here next season. NASCAR will likely release the schedules for all three of its national touring series in August or September.
"We will work with track officials to determine what can be done to address these problems, so that next year's NASCAR event will be even bigger and better," Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said.
Beshear served as grand marshal for the race.
To be honest, those ticket holders who did not make the race didn't miss much.
Three-wide racing and plenty of passing that was promised by track mogul Bruton Smith was far from reality.
"I think the only thing that made this a great race [Saturday] was the green- white-checkered and the excitement and energy of the fans," Jeff Gordon said after his 10th-place finish. "I think when Bruton [Smith] is looking at how to get the traffic in here, he's going to have to look at the racetrack as well. It's rough, and it's really hard to pass. The layout needs a little help, but the surface most importantly, to give these fans what they really deserve."
Now that Kentucky Speedway has made its amends with ticket holders, it's time for the them to resolve their track and traffic issues in order to save themselves from further scrutiny.