Kentucky Race a Disaster for Fans

NASCAR does a lot of lip service saying that this sport is for the fans. It’s everywhere in advertising and in driver comments. That didn’t happen at Kentucky Speedway this weekend.

Adding 40,000 seats and not developing adequate ways to get in and out of the track are tremendous mistakes that fall on the shoulders of Speedway Motorsports and NASCAR. What were they thinking?

[media-credit name=”Joe Dunn” align=”alignright” width=”225″][/media-credit]Fans in the area had long coveted a Sprint Cup race at the Sparta, Kentucky speedway. Never mind that is was of the cookie-cutter variety. You’ve seen them all by now and they don’t differ much from the others. Tri-oval, low banking and, unfortunately, boring racing. For long periods, the drivers seemed to resemble a long freight train with no one passing. That wasn’t the worst part.

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Fans had to deal with so much adversity that I’d be surprised if they could sell half the tickets they sold this year. I consider myself lucky that I considered heading to Kentucky for the race, only to be convinced that a colleague was closer and would take the job. He couldn’t attend and I once again considered traveling to the track. I’m glad that I didn’t.

If you have a twitter account, you know what I mean. Stories of people being stopped in traffic for hours and one lady actually walking three miles to the track only to see her husband after the race started were common. Many never got to the race. I’ve been to Rockingham in the old days and spent hours in traffic, but always got out in an hour or two. I’ve heard about Texas in 1997 and have lived Atlanta way back when, but never have I heard stories like this. NASCAR fans are loyal to their sort, but with the faltering economy and things the way they are, can we really expect them to support a track that was so indifferent to getting people in and out of the facility? Can we expect fans to continue to watch racing that is somewhat mediocre at best (at one point, Kyle Busch had an unbelievable 8-second lead and many cars already a lap down) and put up with the long trip back home on a Saturday night?

A close friend who lives in Cincinnati, just up the road from the track, emailed me (oh, the glory of smartphones) that he was going across the interstate and heading home after sitting still in traffic for over two hours with the green flag only an hour away and finding himself 50 miles away. The $300 he had spent was not worth it even in these troubled times.

We have to hope that next year things get better for the Kentucky track, but one thing is certain. Before NASCAR and SMI make the decision to add a track, adequate roads need to be there for people to get to the track and get out. That didn’t happen here. It’s something that happens far too often in this sport. And it’s something that wouldn’t happen in the other major sports. That’s what separates our sport from the others. Money talks, as they say, but these days it’s going to take more than having an event and expecting folks to put up with anything to see the event. Those days are gone.

Yet, another lesson learned, I hope.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

6 COMMENTS

  1. As of now this is totally SMI and the state of Kentucky’s fault they should have never even asked Nascar for a race at a facility that could not handle it. If it happens again next year the blame should totally be on Nascar. Also no way will this be fixed by next year so Nascar should pull the date now and move the race somewhere else until it is guaranteed to not happen again.

  2. When I wrote the article, it was late on Saturday night and had heard from several people who tried to get in and some of the comments were interesting. One person thought it was a Bruton Smith ploy to force Kentucky to build better roads for access. Another thought they had oversold seats (a fact that seem plausible because of the attendance figures and the number of seats they claimed to have). Truth is, it was poor planning. The lack of shuttle buses and ice was inexcusable. The fact that no one could carry coolers or even an unopened bottle of water into the track is criminal on a 90 degree day. Selling coolers (as has been acknowledged to me by those who made it in) after entering the track seems to be SMI and not NASCAR or the state of Kentucky. A caller to Sirius’s NASCAR channel claims to have called the Kentucky liquor control to ask and they laughed. Said it was up to the track.

    As Sal stated, NASCAR only sanctions the event, but have the power to pull that sanction if things don’t appear right. Brian France has made it clear that he wasn’t pleased, but you can bet O. Bruton Smith isn’t either. Things will change next year, but who will come back. Those I know say, “never again.” Time heals all wounds, but you have to wonder. It was a total mess up on the part of track officials and SMI. That’s where the fault lies and that’s really confusing because the other SMI tracks are well-oiled machines. Heads will roll IMHO.

    • Ron I know what you were getting at, and you did bring up some very good points. What a lot of fans don’t realize is the county or whoever is in charge of these roads, are not gonna waste the taxpayers money on improvements if this only happens once a year. In the work I do, we deal with proposals being sent out all the time to either the state, or the Government to allot money for improvements on schools and colleges. In the case with widening or adding additional lanes to alleviate the traffic, it usually takes a year to do an environmental impact study to see if there is a problem year round, and not just one or two weekends a year. Every year I hear the same thing from the fans at Infineon or Vegas, and guess what we they still come. Its all about better planning on the fans part, and maybe leaving earlier or camping out at night. Keep up the great work….

  3. Umm…you most certainly SHOULD blame SMI. They didn’t have enough parking spots for the seats alloted. The highways could be 10 lanes wide, but when you have no parking…which they admitted they were really short on…it should fall primarily on the speedway and it’s owners. The bottleneck was at the track smart guy.

    • Its funny you mention about the parking lot being the problem, when Las Vegas and Infineon both have more than enough parking spots. Yet it still takes 4 to 5 hours to get in and out of the track and back on the highway. Name calling is not the way to garner respect, especially when you are trying make this an isolated incident and there are other tracks that have the same problem.

  4. You can’t blame NASCAR or SMI for the traffic problems, since all they can do is submit proposals to expand the roadways which was done by SMI. In the end its up to the county or whoever handles the construction of the roadways to follow through with the proposals that were submitted. Since SMI or NASCAR does not own the land to the roads leading into the track, how can you blame them? L.A. is in the process of building an N.F.L. stadium out here in the City of Industry, and the first order of business is doing an environmental survey of the traffic problems that could arise before any ground breaking takes place. Maybe SMI should have not pushed for the race until the road situation was taken care of first, which once again is not NASCAR’s fault.

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