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What could have been a great night for NASCAR turns sour in Kentucky

By admin | July 10, 2011

By Richard Allen


For a sport in need of an enthusiastic sellout crowd and a great deal of positive buzz leading into an event, the inaugural trip for the Sprint Cup Series to the Kentucky Speedway seemed to be like a dream come true for NASCAR. Unfortunately for all involved, the reality proved to be more like a nightmare than a dream.

The track announced in the week leading up to the Quaker State 400 that the event was indeed a sellout. Those have been few and far between for this sport of late.

However, the weekend began to sour early on. Friday night’s Nationwide Series race revealed a potentially serious problem leading into the next day’s main event. At the time for the green flag to drop on Friday, many fans sat idle in their cars on Interstate 71 outside the track.

Fans planning to return for the Sprint Cup race on Saturday were advised to plan on an early arrival. But early proved to be a relative term as many fans, via the Twitter social networking site, described journeys that under normal circumstances would take only a few minutes but were taking four and five hours on race day.

Speedway Motorsports, Inc. bought the Kentucky Speedway in 2008 and began working toward a Cup date for the track, a mission the facility’s previous owners had failed to accomplish after years of trying.

SMI Chairman O. Bruton Smith joked in a Friday press conference that he “hoped to get fans out by Tuesday” when asked about traffic concerns. Turned out, getting them in was every bit as much a problem as getting them out.

Now keep in mind that moving such a great number of people is never an easy task. However, as both nights wore on, it became clear that the track was not equipped for events of such scale. A number of fans were turned away from the venue after finally arriving, after the race was well underway, due to a lack of parking space.

Once the race finally ended, getting out proved to be as much a hassle as getting in had been. Again on Twitter, pictures of seemingly unending strings of tail lights and horror stories of long delays were prevalent.

And more, fans had been told in advance that they would not be allowed to bring coolers into the facility due to a Kentucky state law, an issue that did not go over well with fans in the summer heat. It has since been reported that there was no such cooler law, but instead, a law that pertained only to alcoholic beverages.

And with all of the above stated, the weekend could have still been counted as somewhat of a success had the racing been entertaining. Unfortunately, it was not. The Nationwide race was dominated by Cup drivers in what turned into a fuel mileage coast rather than a charge to the finish line.

In the Cup race itself even drivers Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon admitted that the racing was less than spectacular. Cars spaced apart and paraded around the 1.5 mile ‘cookie cutter’ track for lap after lap until a late caution flag bunched them for a three lap sprint to the end, eventually won by Kyle Busch.

All in all, this weekend was a nightmare. One that could have been avoided with better planning.

Topics: Articles |

5 Responses to “What could have been a great night for NASCAR turns sour in Kentucky”

  1. zhills fan Says:
    July 11th, 2011 at 4:36 am

    I remember hearing about the traffic problem several years ago so they should have been better prepared. The roads in that area are not adequate for such a large influx of traffic and won’t be until the state steps in and makes some major changes.(Remember the new road into Atlanta) because that’s what it is going to take for the traffic problem into and out of the facility to go away. As far as the parking mess there isn’t any excuse for that.

  2. SB Says:
    July 11th, 2011 at 6:39 am

    Once again, Kentucky proved that, despite ‘individual characteristics’, the races at cookie cutter tracks all look the same from the stands. A brief flurry of action after restarts, followed by mind-numbing single file racing. I wish Nascar and the media would stop trying to tell fans that we don’t know what we’re seeing, trying to convince fans that there is no such thing as ‘a cookie cutter’.

  3. jerseygirl Says:
    July 11th, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Planning? Bruton’s perfect, he doesn’t need to plan! I refuse to go to venues that won’t allow fans to bring in their own beverages. I can understand a ban of alcohol but water and soda, no way. Sounds like somebody screwed the pooch on that too - since they read the law wrong.

    Nice job all around. Can’t say that I’ll rush right out to buy a ticket for this track.

  4. Tyler West Says:
    July 11th, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Give the track a chance to make the corrections. Let’s face it, Bruton has a knack for missing some details. Sure the tracks look like palaces but Kentucky needs improvements, Atlanta sucked before they got their traffic problem resolved, remember when they screwed up Charlotte, Texas, and so on.. Oh yeah, Loudon is one of the worst races to watch or attend! IT SUCKS!! Loudon needs to just be removed from the schedule. In fairness though, folks need to show up early. I mean who does not prepare for their race weekend better? If you know it is going to be bad get their really early. They will get it resolved that is what SMI does very well. All those things I mentioned they went back and corrected very quickly. They don’t fool around. Kentucky will be great next year. The race was already great the other stuff will be as well. Rockingham was like that back in the day but it was also fixed. Kentucky just went through some growing pains.

  5. JT Says:
    July 11th, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Rich, that was a pretty good synopsis of the “Catastrophe at Kentucky”.

    Besides the traffic snafus and the boring races, I’ve read some accounts of Bruton’s concessionaires charging $4 for a small bottle of water and $9 for a hamburger. Even at those “highway robbery” prices, however, I understand that most of the concessions ran out of food and beverages before the race ended.

    There are also stories of a total lack of parking control (other than to have the gall to charge $20 to park over a mile away in an overgrown pasture). Also reports of long lines to overflowing port-a-lets, with no hand washing stations.

    I don’t get it - this track has been operating for over a decade and had a year to prepare for this Cup race. The track management should have been ready. But Bruton’s blaming the Friday & Saturday problems on the State of Kentucky for I-71’s inadequacies. However, it appears the real problem is Smith’s lack of respect for the fans.