Scottvoight's NASCAR Blog

July 11, 2011

Kentucky Speedway Fiasco

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Voight @ 9:11 am

I have sat in traffic at both Atlanta Motor Speedway and Michigan for hours. Kentucky has had this problem from its inception. Two years ago my girlfriend sat in traffic for 4 hours trying to get home in Cincinatti. This was due to the parking attendants not letting her parking area go until other areas were empty. It has always had a poor plan of action and these things should have been addressed before recieving a cup date. The State police were always useless sitting in their cars instead of directing traffic. This shows Kentucky Speedway is under poor management from the top to bottom.

Here is what other fans had to say courtesy of

As a ticket scalper made his way up Ky. 35 selling tickets to Saturday’s Quaker State 400, a man shouted, “I’ll buy those tickets if you can guarantee that I get to the race on time.”

The race wouldn’t start for five more hours, and the track was just 3 miles away, but the scalper was quick to reply: “I don’t know if I can.”

The comment was made in jest, but the traffic jam getting to Kentucky Speedway left many less than lighthearted as they sat in traffic for several hours. The nearly never-ending stream of cars finally began to clear up close to 9 p.m., well after the race began, but that didn’t mean the problem was solved. Some drivers tweeted that they were turned away at the gate because no more parking was available.

From his owner’s suite, Bruton Smith told the Kentucky Enquirer that as many as 20,000 fans didn’t get in because “traffic is horrendous.”

Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simen dinger said track officials did not expect such traffic congestion.

“We’re learning a lot today,” he said. “I know that’s probably not a lot of consolation for somebody who was stuck in all the traffic for hours, but we have gone to school on this.”

Simendinger said the bottleneck was at Interstate 71’s Exit 57 onto Ky. 35, the road that runs by the Speedway.

“I think we’ve got to take a hard look at that and how we deal with that and alleviate some of that” traffic, he said. “Because the amount of traffic that we generated tonight, that spot certainly can’t handle.”

NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson, who finished third in Saturday night’s race, suggested Kentucky Speedway put aside talk of improving the racetrack and pay more attention to the fans.

“Leave the surface alone on the racetrack and make sure that the fans have the experience they deserve to have,” Johnson said.

It got to the point that some fans pulled off the road miles before the track, parked their vehicles and walked. Property owners along Ky. 35 offered their land for parking, charging $20. Some people then had to walk nearly 2 miles to the track.

“I’ve been to many, many races here, and this is the worst one I’ve been to for getting in the track,” Ryan Vaughn of Cincinnati said.

NASCAR fans took to social media to show their frustration, dubbing the mass traffic jam “Carmageddon.”

Many said the origin of the problem was parking; they thought track officials lacked a solid plan to help move cars into the lots. Some drivers were even turned away from lots where they were supposed to park and forced to search for spots elsewhere.

“They weren’t flagging people in and parking them right,” Vaughn said. “There was no direction getting them in there. Everyone was just standing.”

Vaughn was caught in traffic on Interstate 71 for nearly 6 miles before he made it to the track, he said.

NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin tweeted at 3 p.m. that he, too, was stuck in traffic and worried he wouldn’t make the drivers’ meeting at 5:30.

Sen. David Williams, the Republican gubernatorial hopeful, never did make it to the track, the Kentucky Enquirer reported, even though he left Frankfort at 2 p.m. The trip normally takes 45 minutes.

John Hamilton of Louisville finally got off the interstate with 94 laps to go but opted to go to a nearby Indiana casino instead.

Even those coming from closer distances had issues. Greg Young of Lebanon camped in neighboring Sanders, which is typically a 10-minute drive from the Speedway. On Saturday, it took him two hours.

“They need to make the road in front of the track a one-way road that just takes people into the parking lots,” Young said.

That road, Speedway Boulevard, is two lanes with a center turn lane. All of the parking lots are on one side. Because of the setup, drivers on the other side of the road couldn’t turn into those lots.

Many speculated that track officials’ inexperience was a factor, noting it was the first time a Sprint Cup race was held at Kentucky Speedway. Earlier in the week, Si mendinger said the track had hired people with plenty of experience.

“Even though we might not have done a Sprint Cup Series race here, we’ve got a lot of Sprint Cup Series veterans helping with traffic management and just about every aspect,” he said Thursday. “We got a group who has done all those things at Atlanta Motor Speedway. They came here and coordinated our entire traffic effort.”

But as Saturday came and went, Simendinger acknowledged things didn’t go according to plan.

“Clearly it was beyond what we expected,” he said.

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I have never seen such a fiasco. At 3:00, we came to a complete stop 18 miles from the track. Ever the optimist, I still thought there was no way it would take 4 1/2 hours to go 18 miles. At 8:30, we finally came to exit 55 only to be met by another fiasco. Kentucky troopers just sitting in their squad cars instead of doing something useful like directing traffic, no signage for parking, people wandering aimlessly, the list goes on forever. Needless to say, by 9:00, we had turned around and started the 4 1/2 hour trip home, tickets intact. Never even got close enough to the track to hear the cars. I have been to Atlanta a few times and Indy once. Never as poorly planned as this was. As fans, we need to complain loud and long to Nascar. Kentucky Speedway does not desesrve another shot at this. I know that they raked in enough money to hire people to direct traffic and pay for some signage. I would not make an attempt to go back if they gave me tickets and offered me a lap around the track with my driver. Nascar fans, we spent our hard earned money and they delivered nothing but disappointment and frustration. E-mail, write letters, make phone calls. Let’s show Kentucky Speedway that Nascar fans will not stand for being treated this way. It is our money that they are pocketing and we deserve to see a race, not be left sitting in traffic because they are too greedy or stupid (maybe both) to direct traffic!

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they have hosted the Nationwide race for three years and the ARCA series!!! They should have had this down!!!! The only being allowed to carry in 1 bottle of water. PURE GREED, then they ran out of all drinks, food…I will never return

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The number was WAY more than 20,000 people. Heck, there were at least 20,000 CARS that didn’t make it to the Speedway on time.

We left the north side of Cincinnati at 2:05pm EDT and were making great time until the I-75/I-71 split. Signage was horrible and there was a complete lack of Traffic Control Officers. We finally got into one of the “back 40” lots off Exit 55 (after seeing a sign at Exit 57 that all parking should proceed to Exit 55…) at 8:35pm EDT. This was an 85 mile drive, by the way. 6 1/2 hours – most of it stopped and with no guidance. The Speedway’s own radio station (1620AM) only played an endless loop announcing the weekend’s events. No help at all!

Parking shuttles couldn’t move any faster than the visitors, as they did not have dedicated lanes. We started to walk from our impromptu parking spot when we realized we might not make it to the Main Gate before the Checkered Flag flew. We walked back to our car, proceeded to leave the grounds as the race reached the half-way point.

I’ve driven to a Daytona 500 and a Brickyard 400 – both of which hold far more spectators than Kentucky Speedway. Those facilities know how to handle traffic and move people. I’ve also driven to an August Cup race at Michigan, which doesn’t benefit from the same proximity to an Interstate highway. Those folks know how to move traffic. All lanes are commandeered for inbound traffic prior to and outbound traffic following a race.

Anyway, we didn’t get to use our two $110 tickets and are really left with a bad taste in our mouths. I felt very bad for families with young kids who didn’t make it on time. I also felt bad for the poor folks simply trying to get to Louisville (or parts south) that got stuck for hours in traffic.

A truly poor performance by the Kentucky Speedway and Kentucky State Patrol / Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department.

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Update after a few hours of sleep:

The more I think about this, the more I wonder if Mr. Smith secretly wanted a trainwreck to give him leverage. He seemed very prepared with his glib criticisms of I-71. As if to say; “See? I had to refund $2 – 4 million in tickets, now build me my Interstate!” (a much more costly proposition than any one-time refund).

It should be pointed out that the log jam did NOT begin on I-71. It began on the inadequate access roads, lack of sufficient queuing area and poorly designed and grossly understaffed parking lots at the Kentucky Speedway.

If this is true – and Mr. Smith used tens of thousands of loyal NASCAR fans as pawns in his game, it is even more outrageous.

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Oh yeah, and comments from Track Officials like; “We sure learned a lot” and “Things will be different next year” are of little comfort to those of us who wasted a day, hard earned money and gallons of gasoline.

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1 Comment »

  1. How would you have liked to have been a seat holder in the Kentucky Suite only to find that the TOILETS DIDN’T WORK! $1000/seat and you have to go down and use the facilities with the “common folks”. I parked in the Platinum Parking lot and there was plenty of room left to park RACE FANS no matter what their station. I never hear so many “I don’t know” answers from the speedway workers. In the “Bluegrass Club” with about 75 laps to go THEY RAN OUT OF BEER. I don’t drink and had to settle for warm diet Coke because they ran out of ice to cool the beverages. When I asked the guy tending bar where they served mixed drinks for a cup of ice I was told “Yeah, I can give you a cup of ice; but you have to buy the cup; FOR SEVEN BUCKS. They inventory how many drinks we sell by the cups we have left” Never heard of a shot pourer? I saw the whole race but there were several empty $150 seats behind me for the whole race. PISS POOR EFFORT BRUNTON!!!!

    Comment by BobM — July 14, 2011 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

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