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.
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.