Kentucky Speedway hosted its inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race Saturday night. To say that things did not go as planned might be the understatement of the year.
Kyle Busch’s third Cup win this season should have been the big story but all anyone can talk about is the traffic. Countless fans were stuck in traffic for hours as the race began without them. There are even reports of ticket holders who were turned away due to inadequate parking.
[media-credit id=24 align=”alignright” width=”232″][/media-credit]Everyone agrees that this is completely unacceptable and Kentucky Speedway issued a statement Sunday promising to make sure that “this never happens again.”
But the real question is this. Will fans give Kentucky Speedway a second chance?
I found my answer on Facebook as one of my friends shared his experience. He’s a long time NASCAR fan and always speaks his mind, so I knew he would “tell it like it is.”
This is his journey.
After dropping off the kids at his Mom’s house, he and his wife were on the road to the track a little before 3:00pm.
“We stopped for a sandwich and drink at the drive through and were on our way. We’re on I-65 about 2 hours south of Sparta, so leaving at that time should be fine, even for traffic. I’ve got Claire B. Lang (on the radio) keeping us posted on what’s going on at the track and the traffic.”
The problems began when he hit Louisville, KY and decided to drive straight through on I-65 to I-71 which would take them to Sparta and the Kentucky Speedway.
Unfortunately, the exit to I-71 was closed because a chemical truck had overturned and spilled its cargo all over the highway. After a detour that took them in the wrong direction, finding an exit to take them back in the right direction, a lot of wasted time and a few expletives later, they were finally heading towards the speedway again.
The anticipation was building as they were getting closer to the track when all of a sudden his wife’s smile was replaced by a frantic look as she screamed, “Noooo, you just passed our exit!”
After turning around again, finding the exit again and a few more expletives, they’re once again heading towards the speedway on I-71.
If only they had known that this was just the beginning of their traffic nightmare.
“Off to Sparta. We drove problem free for about the next hour. Claire B. is worrying me with all the traffic talk. I thought surely we’d still make it. Green flag isn’t for over two hours.”
“We hit the traffic 20 miles south of exit 55, the exit that leads to the track. Kentucky Speedway is right off of I-71. You can see it plainly from the Interstate. We’re now 19 miles south of that exit going between 3 and 10 mph. But as long as they keep it moving, we’ll still make it. We sat in this for about an hour, maybe a little more.”
At this point he decided to take a chance on an alternate route. He took exit 44 which took him down a two lane road to Carrollton.
“Excellent decision. It was problem free, 55mph. From Carrollton we took US 42 straight over to 1093, the road the Speedway is on. We turned onto it, drove about a mile down it and then hit the traffic again.”
“We know we’re close. We can’t see the speedway yet. But we’ve passed campgrounds full of NASCAR campers and now there is a scalper walking down the middle of the road. Excitement sets in.”
“Eventually, we start noticing people are parking on the side of the road and walking. We must be close. I say we’re gonna drive a little further and if we don’t see it, we’re parking and walking. The walkers are moving much faster than us.”
“So, off the side we go. Park the car along beside a highway and hope it doesn’t get towed or ticketed. We don’t worry much about theft around here.”
“Some lady in a car rolls her window down and says ‘Hey, you know you got 4 miles to go?’ Then some guys pull up in the ditch beside us and ask if we know how far it is. We say they told us 4 miles, he says ‘Yeah, our GPS says 5.’ So we look at each other and ponder if we want to walk that far.”
“The wife says ‘No.’ I say we ain’t gonna make it in time if we stay in the car. We have a chance if we walk. So off we go walking.”
So they walked and walked and walked some more in over 90 degree temperatures with the bright sun blazing overhead. An hour later, they hear the cars racing.
After about three miles, some farm boy on a four-wheeler comes by and they offer him ten bucks to take them to the gate.
“That air felt great on that four- wheeler. That boy made a killing I bet because there were lots of people walking. There were cars parked all over the side of the road. As late as we are, there are thousands still behind us.”
Tired, hot, thirsty, blistered and angry, they arrive at the gate. But then they look at the track and realize, they’re not there yet.
“Standing at the gate, we see the track, still a mile away, a mile away up a hill! The race is 30 laps old and we hear them stop for the competition caution. Thousands of people are still flowing into the gate.”
“We finally get to the top of the hill, get on the tram and ride the last 200 yards to the ticket gate.”
After all this you might think they would be too tired and too mad to enjoy the race. But like most NASCAR fans, they don’t mind putting up with a few inconveniences to see a good race. Granted, these circumstances were extreme and certainly not the norm for most NASCAR races.
But things could have been worse. They could still be stranded in traffic or worse, sit in traffic all day and then get turned away because there wasn’t enough parking. So with all they went through, they were luckier than some.
“We had a little trouble finding our seats because they aren’t labeled very good, but we found them. They were excellent seats but from the looks of things, every seat is an excellent seat. Pit road is right in front of us and the start/finish line is about 100 yards to the right. You can see the whole track from anywhere.”
“The race was exactly what I expected from a mile and a half oval. Long leads, little passing, stretched out fields, and most cars a lap down. Why anyone wanted to build another mile and a half oval is beyond me. But its racing, NASCAR style. It’s loud, fast, and all the super stars are out there, so I’m cool with it.”
After the race, they began the long walk back to the car. A man stopped and offered them a ride so they hopped up onto the tailgate. They were soon joined by some fellow walkers who also hitched a ride. They sat together, talked racing and in just a few minutes were back at their car.
Right about now you’re probably asking yourself, “Will they go back next year?” The answer might surprise you.
“Overall, the experience was less than stellar. Too much time spent getting in and not enough time spent enjoying the race experience but the facility is good.”
“NASCAR is as much about the camaraderie as it is the racing. To be fully enjoyed, and I knew this before hand, one has to go set up camp and stay a few days. Traffic sucks at all of them, though not at this level. Driving in, watching a race, and going home isn’t the way to enjoy NASCAR. But, it wasn’t in the cards to do that this year, and I wasn’t missing the inaugural.”
“Many people said they won’t return. I will.”
Thanks to Bobby and Kim Farvour for sharing their story.
*Monday, Kentucky Speedway issued an apology and outlined a ticket exchange program. For more details please click on the link below. http://www.kentuckyspeedway.com/newsline/news.aspx?newsID=1038