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Woody: Traffic Glitch Was Bad For Bruton

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 15 2011

Bruton Smith is a good track operator but a lousy traffic director. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tami Kelly Pope)

Timing, they say, is everything, and that goes for sports columns.

Last week as Kentucky Speedway got ready for its grand Sprint Cup opener I penned (well, pecked) a commentary in praise of Bruton Smith’s latest jewel. Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc. owns eight Cup tracks and has been instrumental in making upgrades in the sport.

I said Bruton’s vision, commitment and ongoing contributions are worthy of NASCAR Hall of Fame consideration.

Then came last Saturday night’s race. And the traffic.

As I understand it, most of it has cleared out by now, although there are reports that some infield squatters have claimed Commonwealth homesteads and several out-of-towners are now eligible to vote in Kentucky.

There’s no way downplay the traffic nightmare, no way to sugar-coat it.

It was an inexcusable, bush-league embarrassment.

Bruton owns and operates some of sport’s biggest venues, starting with Bristol Motor Speedway which twice a year handles crowds 160,000. He’s no traffic neophyte.

Likewise, even though last Saturday’s race was the first Cup event for Kentucky Speedway, for a decade the track has been hosting other races. Even with smaller crowds the track had a terrible-traffic reputation.

It knew how bad the traffic flow had been the past with lower-division races. It should have known had much worse it would be for a Cup race. It had a year to get ready. There was no excuse.

Plus, the track is located just off the interstate. You can hit it with a golf ball. It can’t possibly be that hard to build some wide connector roads from the interstate to the track.

Instead of thumping their chests and boasting about their accomplishments, Kentucky politicians should have been out there building some roads to the track.

My pal Darrell Waltrip has been a player from Day One. (About 12 years ago Jerry Carroll called to get DW’s private number to ask him to join the track effort.)

Darrell has been part of the planning and development from the start. He knows race traffic. He should have tipped off someone that the roads/parking wasn’t adequate.

And where was NASCAR during the past year, since approving Kentucky’s Cup date? Why didn’t it check out the track and point out the obvious: not enough access?

As someone who over the past four decades wasted the best years of his life sitting in race traffic, I’m not giving anyone a pass on the Kentucky debacle. It was inexcusable from the top down — and Bruton is at the top.

At the same time, one foul-up doesn’t wipe out all the tremendous positives and advances Smith has been responsible for over the decades. Whenever there’s been a glitch or a hitch, Bruton is known for promptly stepping in and fixing it. I can guarantee you, the Kentucky traffic nightmare won’t be repeated next year.

I still think Bruton belongs in NASCAR’s Hall of Fame. But as a track owner, not a traffic director.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 15 2011
One Comment

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  • Bryan Jackson says:

    So the State of Kentucky should build more roads to help out Billionaire Smith. The same state that is having to cut funding to universities because of budget shortfalls. I have a better idea. Let Smith spend some of HIS billions to benefit HIS track.

    Instead of Kentucky letting themselves be blackmailed the same way Charlotte and others have, let Smith move the date. After all, he has already laid the groundwork for that. In response to a question Friday about would he move the date if his meeting with Kentucky’s Governor did not go his way, Smith’s answer was “Las Vegas, Baby, Las Vegas”