Kentucky Speedway Avoids Repeat Of Traffic, Parking Woes; Attendance Down From '11
A "steady stream of traffic moved smoothly into the Kentucky Speedway all day Saturday for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 -- a sharp contrast to last year’s inaugural race," according to Amanda Van Benschoten of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. The Speedway and the state spent $11M "over the past year to make sure that happened." Kentucky Speedway GM Mark Simendinger "attributed Saturday’s smooth operations to those improvements and to the successful execution of a traffic management plan that was a year in the making." Attendance "likely was a factor." While crowd estimates "weren’t immediately available," attendance was "clearly lighter than last year’s sellout, which drew 107,000." The Speedway "significantly expanded capacity, buying 143 nearby acres that allowed it to add 20,000 parking spots." It also "graveled over unpaved lots and added parking stripes to maximize capacity." On Saturday, state troopers "expertly and efficiently guided vehicles into parking lots at the Speedway, unlike last year’s congestion" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 7/1). SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith said he was “comfortable” with the speedway's improvements. Smith: “We don’t see traffic backed up all the way to Cincinnati. We’re totally, totally ready. Everybody’s worked really hard to get us where we are.” In Louisville, Jason Frakes noted on Saturday, Kentucky State Police "posted updates via Twitter every 15 minutes, and every one included a mention of no traffic problems" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 7/1).
DIMINISHING RETURNS? In Lexington, Mark Story in a front-page piece noted though Smith said Saturday afternoon that there "would be a crowd in excess of 100,000 for the 2012 Quaker State 400, there were numerous empty seats when the green flag dropped Saturday night." That was "especially true in the corners of both the original grandstands and the two new towers that Smith built after moving a Cup race here two years ago." For Saturday's race it "looked like a crowd in the neighborhood of 75,000 to 80,000." Story: "Whatever the actual attendance, it was far smaller than the complete sellout in excess of 106,000 people a year ago" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 7/1). In Charlotte, Jim Utter writes, "Being generous, approximately 70 percent of the stands were filled Saturday night." It is "certainly possible some ticket holders didn't show due to the extreme heat this weekend." However, "it's clear it will take time for the speedway to earn back the trust of the many fans it left with a bad memory from last season's debacle" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/2).