Driving Today

Sun Not Shining so Bright on Kentucky Race

Traffic debacle prevents 10,000 ticketholders from seeing NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

Imagine holding a ticket to a Sprint Cup race … and then finding yourself so thwarted by traffic, you couldn’t even get in the gates and park your car in time to see the race you paid hard-earned money for. That was the situation an estimated 10,000 race fans ran into at the inaugural Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. Our big question is: How could this happen?

Sure, every new event has teething pains, so some minor problems might have been expected in Kentucky. But this isn’t the first rodeo for Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI), the company that operates Kentucky Speedway. SMI also runs New Hampshire, Bristol, Atlanta, Charlotte and Texas Motor Speedways. They certainly know how to work with local and state government to get people into and out of racing facilities relatively quickly and efficiently. Certainly 100,000 people descending on any venue will tax the local infrastructure, but there are time-proven ways to get the job done. Which is why it is hard to imagine the scale of the disaster that went on in Kentucky.

Another reason we are puzzled at the extent of the problem is that virtually all of the 107,000 or so seats for the event were presold. SMI knew how many people were going to attend; it wasn’t surprised by a giant walk-up crowd that overwhelmed the resources that had been put in place for a smaller audience. In addition to the 10,000 ticketholders that missed the event, countless others waited as long as six hours in traffic for the privilege of seeing the three-hour race. Things were so bad that the Kentucky legislature is liable to take a look at the issue.

“I sympathize with the angry people who didn’t get in; I was one of them,” says Kentucky State Senator David Williams. “On behalf of those impacted and on behalf of all taxpayers, I am going to focus on analyzing the problem, getting information and finding a solution so Kentucky isn’t again embarrassed nationally.”

In an attempt to placate fans who didn’t get into the facility for the race, Kentucky Speedway has offered an equal number of tickets to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on October 1, or the IndyCar Series event on October 2. Neither has equivalent value to the Sprint Cup race, though, and SMI hasn’t indicated it was going to do anything for the fans who did get into the facility but waited in traffic for hours to do so. You know the old expression “You only get one chance to make a good first impression,” don’t you?



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