Sat Jul 09 11:09pm EDT
Speedway Motorsports Inc., the company that owns the Kentucky Speedway, was proud of the fact that the track's inaugural Sprint Cup race date was a sellout.
One thing that SMI president Bruton Smith wasn't proud of was the traffic jams that were created heading to the Sparta, Kent., track.
"There's 15 to 20,000 people that won't get in here today," Smith said. "Traffic is horrendous. Interstate 71 is a disaster."
Smith previously had called I-71 a disaster, as the track's main feeder is mostly just two lanes in either direction. But the reality of Saturday's traffic mess was still hard to watch.
"It may have been OK in 1955," Smith said of I-71. "But somebody should have rebuilt that thing 20 years ago."
There were reportsthat traffic was still entering the track — and backed up outside of it — more than an hour after the race had begun. Some said that treks as short as 13 miles took four hours.
Interstate 71, which comes from Cincinnati to the track south of the Cincinnati airport, was the main transportation route of choice. However, it was so backed up that the track's PA announcer warned fans at Friday night's Nationwide race coming in on 71 to skip the main exit for the track and go further south.
During Saturday's race, a NASCAR spokesperson issued an apology about the traffic issues.
Smith, always outspoken, may also be playing the traffic problems to his company's advantage. While the speedway is in the unenviable spot of potentially compensating fans who didn't make the race because of the traffic, the money used to improve traffic flow would come from federal and state funds, so it may be in his best interests to play up the traffic problems.
While traffic was expected to be bad, the problems were much greater than anyone foresaw. The track had been hosting Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series events for 10 years before being awarded a Cup date for the 2011 season.
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