SBD/July 13, 2011/Facilities

Will Kentucky Speedway Traffic Jam Have Long-Term Impact On Sport?

Chitwood worried traffic jam may have turned off new NASCAR fans

Daytona Int'l Speedway President Joie Chitwood yesterday said he is "concerned about the damage" done to NASCAR by the traffic jam prior to Kentucky Speedway's inaugural Sprint Cup Series race Saturday, according to George Diaz of the ORLANDO SENTINEL. After a "flood of mea culpas and 'we're sorry' e-mails and offers of free tickets" from the Kentucky Speedway's owner, SMI, the "focus shifts to next year." It is "highly unlikely that NASCAR would yank that date away from the track, but it's very likely that thousands of frustrated customers won't bother coming back." Chitwood, whose track is owned by SMI rival ISC, said, "I'm not concerned about Talladega, Daytona, Las Vegas or other properties. But there might have been new NASCAR fans who were there. Who knows if it turns off people to our sport altogether" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/13). ESPN.com's Terry Blount wrote SMI and Kentucky Speedway are "saying all the right things now about the traffic mess Saturday night," but it "never should have come to this." Blount: "How could NASCAR sanction a stop at a facility that clearly didn't have the infrastructure in place to handle a Cup event?" Still, the speedway "deserves a second chance" to get it right (ESPN.com, 7/12). SPORTING NEWS TODAY's Reid Spencer writes under the header, "Perhaps Kentucky Should Forgo Its 2012 Cup Date." Spencer: "The traffic jam that brought Kentucky to a standstill requires huge remedial action -- not just a solution to the problem itself but also a more-than-generous gesture to fans who were robbed of their time and ticket money by what can only be described as an egregious shortfall in planning" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 7/13). SI.com's Brant James: "Nothing short of [SMI Chair & CEO] Bruton Smith standing outside Churchill Downs handing out free vouchers to the potential second Sprint Cup race at the track would suffice in displaying true contrition" (SI.com, 7/12).    

WORKING ON A SOLUTION: Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear yesterday said that his Chief of Staff, Mike Haydon, "will lead a team looking at ways to avoid traffic jams on race days." Beshear said that the team "will look at whether more roads are needed at the track" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 7/13). SMI President & COO Marcus Smith on Monday said the traffic jam "was disappointing," and he vowed to "make it up" to fans. Smith, appearing on Speed's "NASCAR Race Hub," said, "In hindsight, we can see where we need to make adjustments. ...  We really pride ourselves on being the best in racing with fan amenities and customer service, so for something like this to happen at one of our speedways is very unusual. We're really sad that it happened and we really want to do what we can to make it right for fans out there.” He added, “When fans come back next year, what they're going to see is a completely different scenario. We're going to have shuttle buses coming from hotels in the cities that are nearby the speedway. We're going to have more remote parking where people can park a little farther from the speedway and come in on bus” (THATSRACIN.com, 7/12).

CORRECTION: THE DAILY yesterday in our story about Kentucky Speedway misidentified the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track is owned by the Hulman George family. THE DAILY regrets the error.

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