SMI’s Bruton Smith, Helton Give Traffic Reports
O. Bruton Smith, chairman of the company which owns Kentucky Speedway, and NASCAR president Mike Helton addressed the traffic problems which boiled over at the track last weekend during separate meetings with the media Friday.
Both executives said the problems surrounding the inaugural Quaker State 400 would be fixed, but the tones of their remarks were noticeably different.
Smith, the founder of Speedway Motorsports Inc., was defiant and combative during his news conference in the media center at his New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., site of Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301.
“We had a traffic problem,” Smith said, “we didn’t have a seat problem. Other than that, I think everything was fantastic.”
Smith said the problem rested not solely with Kentucky Speedway. He said Interstate 71, the main highway into the track, was to blame. He also said the company he hired to park cars did “a lousy job.”
Helton said NASCAR is looking into the traffic problem which occurred Saturday as
Kentucky Speedway played host to its first Sprint Cup Series event. He refused to speculate on whether or not Cup would return to the track located in the town of Sparta next year.
“I don’t want to speculate on that type of thing,” Helton said. “I can’t help but think, you look at the history of our sport, we’ve had issues that happen, and we generally figure out how to work through them.
“I think what we’re after right now is to figure out what happened in Sparta and figure out what the cure is for it. Outside of that, I don’t have an opinion at this point. But we’re working toward a resolution.”
Helton apologized to fans and said NASCAR will be holding high-level talks with Kentucky Speedway officials.
“We will not let this fall by the wayside,” Helton said.
Kentucky Speedway officials announced a sellout of the recently expanded 106,000-seat grandstands a week before the event. On race day, a traffic jam kept thousands of people from getting to their seats by time the event started. A lack of on-site parking also kept thousands of more fans from reaching the track at all.
News of the problem spread through social media networks and what should have been a good day for the track and for NASCAR turned into a public relations fiasco.
Track officials issued several statements taking blame for the incident and promised problems would be fixed.
“Everybody is engaged in this topic to find out exactly what happened,” said Helton, who added NASCAR officials were very happy that the track had attracted such a large crowd and that interest in the race was high in the area.
“We were very pleased and excited about the overall support that fans showed the inaugural Sprint Cup race in Kentucky last week,” Helton said. “It was impressive. Don’t want that to get overshadowed.”
He termed the traffic woes “unfortunate” but said sometimes “hiccups” occur. Asked how NASCAR would overcome the resulting PR problems, Helton said he expected good racing to be the cure.
SMI experienced similar traffic and parking issues when Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth played host to its inaugural Cup race in April 1997. Those problems, and a flaw in the design of the 1.5-mile quadoval, were quickly addressed and resolved by Smith and Eddie Gossage, TMS president.
On Monday, Mark Simendinger, Kentucky Speedway’s general manager, issued an apology to fans inconvenienced and said SMI would be working with NASCAR, state and local officials and traffic experts “to ensure that we never have this type of experience again.”
Additionally, Marcus Smith, president and chief operating officer of his father’s company, announced that fans with tickets who were unable to attend Saturday night’s event would have their tickets honored at any remaining 2011 Sprint Cup race at an SMI facility or the 2012 Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.
The ticket exchange is good for the following events at SMI facilities while supplies last at each respective venue:
July 17 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Aug. 27 – Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 4 – Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sept. 25 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Oct. 15 – Charlotte Motor Speedway
Nov. 6 – Texas Motor Speedway
2012 – Kentucky Speedway
In addition to the ticket exchange, Kentucky Speedway will issue these fans an equal quantity of tickets to either its Oct. 1 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 225-mile race or Oct. 2 IZOD IndyCar Series 300-mile event. For information on ticket exchange and redemption, fans should only contact the Kentucky Speedway ticket office at 859-578-2300 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments