In the smoking asphalt aftermath of what race fans are calling “Carmageddon,” Speedway Motorsports CEO, Bruton Smith, has both harsh words and hope for the Commonwealth. With 1-75 shut down and I-71 crawling like a parking lot, over 20,000 fans eager to witness the debut of NASCAR at the Kentucky Speedway could not get there.
Those who did were managing full bladders, empty gas tanks and worn to a frazzle from, in many instances, a 45 minute hop that turned to four hours. They were so dazed that the staggering $8 beer prices meant nothing. Not having to pee on the side of the road meant everything.
I am not a race fan or NASCAR enthusiast so my dog’s not even on this porch but when I saw the news footage and articles about the woefully unorganized traffic flow and peripheral planning for the area, I had to gather some observations and feedback. What happened? What didn’t happen is the story.
I left an email message for Bruton Smith at his office. He was on the phone with me in a couple of hours for a brief conversation. Being known as a hands-on businessman, he was brimming with concern and probably a little piss and vinegar on the side.
“Traffic was so severe. it was embarrassing,” he said. “that I-71 is a disgrace to the state! Every time I drive it, I see how many trucks there are and how dangerous it can be. There needs to be more lanes and not just for a race day.
Where does the responsibility lie? Federal, municipal, the promoters, fans or local business?
“All of the above, ” he said, “It’s hard to see who the enemy is, and we are certainly included in that, but this is what happens with a race of this magnitude the first time out. It gets better every race, there will be an awareness by the next event”
He is planning to meet with the powers that be in Frankfort post haste.
“Somebody’s not asking for something here. I’m going to get a meeting and see if we can’t get this right.”
Then he paused. “Maybe Kentucky isn’t ready for prime time.”
Oh, that should get our ire up.
His grief is lightened by generosity–which is good old fashioned customer service.
“We will give all those who didn’t get in another ticket,” he said. “i hope we can get your state to help us get something done. People will have to step up and spend some more money to do better next time.”
I explained that, unlike NASCAR, things tend to move pretty slow in Kentucky sometimes.
“Well, it’s time to speed it up!”