Remember the NASCAR race Atlanta lost? It went … not well

Oddly enough, traffic flows freely on the Bruton Smith Parkway in Georgia. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Oddly enough, traffic flows freely on the Bruton Smith Parkway in Georgia. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

You’ll recall that the annual spring NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway became the new summer NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway, which sits 40 miles from Cincinnati off I-71. About this piece of highway, Bruton Smith — who owns, conveniently enough, both AMS and the Kentucky Speedway –  said on Speed TV:

“I’m trying my best to get the governor [Kentucky's Steve Beshear] to understand that Interstate 71 sucks. That is the worst interstate highway I’ve ever been on. I think it’s a disgrace to the great state of Kentucky to have something like that.”

As Terry Blount of ESPN noted, Bruton Smith spoke those words three hours before the Saturday night race. Imagine what he must be thinking now.

One of the Busch brothers won the inaugural Sprint Cup Event at the Kentucky Speedway, but nobody will remember which. Everyone involved was so appalled by the road conditions that varying voices have spent the hours since issuing varying statements of regret. Said NASCAR chairman Brian France: “This situation cannot happen again.”

So what exactly happened? Traffic.

I-71 was backed up for 15 miles. It was backed up so far that people holding tickets to the race arrived so late they found that the parking lots were closed (more about this in a moment) and that the roads supposed to offer access to the Speedway had, in the forlorn effort to smooth traffic flow, been reversed and were leading away from the track.

On Sunday night, general manager Mark Simendinger issued a statement on the track’s Web site saying, “Kentucky Speedway regrets the traffic conditions.” By Monday afternoon, that statement had been amended to this: “We offer our sincerest apologies.” (The track has also offered a ticket exchange for other NASCAR races, including — small world, huh? — the Sept. 4 event at AMS.)

But wait. As Kevin Kelly of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported, Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis took the unusual step of issuing an 18-paragraph e-mail blasting the Kentucky Speedway. The highlights:

As a track promoter I am saddened and embarrassed about what happened this weekend. To think all the hard work that we’ve done here at Michigan International Speedway and other tracks have done could be so quickly erased by Saturday’s events. That speedway, having been open for racing since 2000, should have known the challenges it would face when it tripled in size.

Just to be clear: This isn’t about kicking a race track when it’s down. We all make mistakes and MIS has certainly had past issues with traffic.

And it isn’t about trying to sway a Kentucky Speedway ticketholder to come to Michigan – though we will be happy to treat them the way they should be treated should they want to give us a chance.

Wow. And here we thought the only good feuds in NASCAR involved one of those Busch brothers.

As Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press reported, the issues could have been — and actually were — foreseen. She wrote:

Traffic was always going to be a problem. A July 1 press release from The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet that touted the traffic patterns set for Saturday night even noted near the bottom that “Kentucky Speedway is able to accommodate approximately 33,000 vehicles in its 10 parking lots.”

Track owner Bruton Smith’s addition of 40,000 seats had made it a 107,000-seat speedway, and all the seats sold a week before the race.

Clearly there was going to be a shortage, and everyone seemed to know it ahead of time. Even Smith, who spent millions on improving infrastructure since buying the speedway in 2008, acknowledged it Friday when he joked that track officials “expect to have everyone home by Tuesday.”

Wrote Brant James on SI.com: “[It] was one of the most inept debuts of a facility as a big-league venue in recent memory.”

We in Atlanta probably shouldn’t chuckle. We’ve sat on congested roads a time or two ourselves. But it is kind of funny that the thing for which AMS was known most — having the worst traffic anywhere on the NASCAR circuit — was beginning to ease just as one of its races got transplanted to Gallatin County, Ky. And you know what helped the race-day conditions down around Hampton, Ga.?

A redesigned State Highway 20 that cuts across to the track from I-75. It’s officially known as the Bruton Smith Parkway.

We’ll see if his new pals in the Bluegrass State’s government feel compelled to commission some paving projects for him. Speaking of whom:

Kentucky Senate president David Williams, who’s running against Beshear for governor, issued a statement on Monday: “I sympathize with those angry people who didn’t get in. I was one of them.”

A Williams aide said the lawmaker spent six hours in his car Saturday. Good luck with those legislative hearings, Bruton.

By Mark Bradley

80 comments Add your comment

TAC

July 12th, 2011
9:21 am

Nascar is getting boring and boring each year. It’s nothing like it use to be anymore. I don’t see any fun in it. There’s no action no more. It’s become drivers worrying about points and money nowadays instead of WINNING.

Not much of a fan of Kentucky Speedway as it was boring as well as Atlanta Motor Speedway…Wish this was the late 90’s!

Lebrick

July 12th, 2011
9:28 am

IMO, Nascar has the right idea…try new tracks to keep it fresh, but to take away 1 AMS race, which is more exciting than Kentucky, is superfluous. Take away a track that the drivers hate, like the road courses.

Bicky Robbie

July 12th, 2011
9:28 am

I wanna go at a reasonable pace!

Sports J

July 12th, 2011
9:28 am

The stupidity of an athlete

Ward’s passenger, Corey Allen, was allowed to drive Ward’s car home, rather than having it impounded. Ward and Allen were teammates while in Athens.

Why wasn’t he driving in the first place Hines? Freaking retard.

SmyrnaMan

July 12th, 2011
9:31 am

If you want to watch people drive in circles for 3 hours, you should be forced to sit in traffic for twice the amount of time

PMC

July 12th, 2011
9:37 am

It’s always brutally difficult to go see a nascar race. They don’t run in the weather, so if it rains, have a nice time in traffic.

Not only have they neutered the racing experience, they make it difficult to actually get to an event and then they wonder why people lose interest in the sport.

Maybe they should find a way to curb overall speeds without the ridiculous restrictor plates at super speedways. Maybe that might be more interesting to watch.

Petit Le mans is always a better more fun event than anything in Hampton.

ted williams head

July 12th, 2011
9:42 am

After a fan buys a ticket to one of Bruton Smiths racetracks he couldnt care less about them. I am an avid NASCAR fan and attend 2-3 races a year but I never consider going to a SMI track which Smith owns including Atlanta although I live 40 miles from it.
The diehard fans know about this little creep

Hillbilly D

July 12th, 2011
9:44 am

Us ol’ timers remember a time when AMS, then known as AIR, was legendary for its traffic problems. You could get home from Talladega quicker than you could get home from Atlanta.

I don’t live in Kentucky. so it’s probably none of my business, but should taxpayers there really be expected to pay for road construction, to relieve traffic at a once or twice a year event? I’d think Bruton ought to pay for that.

Najeh Davenpoop

July 12th, 2011
9:49 am

I saw a Nascar race once. I sat on the shoulder of I-285 and watched cars go in a circle all day. The cops won.

Hines Ward

July 12th, 2011
9:49 am

I-71? I think I’ve heard that letter “I” somewhere, other than in my post-game interviews.

Let me see…

A…

B…

Uh, yeah, you know…

C…

D…

….

….

headley lamar

July 12th, 2011
9:57 am

Kentucky should stick to Horse Racin

CONservative Johnson

July 12th, 2011
10:06 am

The traffic was only a problem to those that couldn’t get in. The racing was ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE!

[...] Remember the NASCAR race Atlanta lost? It went … not wellAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)(AJC photo by Johnny Crawford) You'll recall that the annual spring NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway became the new summer NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway, which sits 40 miles from Cincinnati off I-71. About this piece of highway, Bruton Smith …Hamlin success solid in NASCAR Sprint Cup RacingGamingTodaySlotsTodayCUP: Kyle Busch Hits Loudon With Point LeadSPEEDtv.comGridlock at Ky.'s Sprint Cup race gets politicalUSA TodayThe Virginian-Pilot -The Union Leader -Midwest Sports Fansall 2,785 news articles » [...]

Southside Dawg

July 12th, 2011
10:24 am

It was a boring race. No lead changes. No Cautions. Pit strategy didn’t figure into it. The final results were too close to the qualifying order.

Mr. P

July 12th, 2011
10:28 am

Nijeh…Best Comment Ever! As a passive NASCAR fan, meaning I glance at it as I channel surf for re-runs of Law & Order SVU, I totally agree. I-285 is 62 miles of FUN!

Curious George

July 12th, 2011
10:39 am

Did Kentucky Speedway at least have a special handicap parking section for any UGA student-athlete “graduates” in the area who displayed their diplomas in their car windows?

Gary

July 12th, 2011
10:40 am

Yes the racing was terrible. You took away a race at a track as exciting as Atlanta to watch two cars race each other in what amounted to a colossal snooze fest? Way to go Nascar. No wonder you are losing fans and have plummeting TV ratings.

@TAC – Nascar was getting boring once they went to the stupid chase format. Then they made the stupid decision to change the car – which wasn’t a problem to begin with. Once the COT was introduced, the racing got really really bad. Races at Talladega, Daytona, Bristol, and Richmond have become so boring that I saw something last week that I never thought I would see – empty seats at Daytona on 4th of July weekend. That should tell Nascar that they have something terribly wrong. The Nationwide Series up until last year still used the older style car and the racing for it was good, especially at the classic tracks.

All I know is Bill France and Bill France Jr. are rolling over in their graves at what that knucklehead outcast of a son and grandson of theirs is doing to the sport they spent their lives building.

Red-N-Black

July 12th, 2011
10:53 am

Curious George

July 12th, 2011
10:39 am
Did Kentucky Speedway at least have a special handicap parking section for any UGA student-athlete “graduates” in the area who displayed their diplomas in their car windows?

Link Report this comment

Why was your BOSS there? Wow haters and jealousy must suck to be you LOL – carry on.

georgiavol

July 12th, 2011
11:00 am

Two good articles in a row. Way to go, Mark!

Judge

July 12th, 2011
11:12 am

The Nascar season never ends now, it is like they race all year long.

[...] 400 race in Kentucky, it's become a much tighter race. Though the inaugural race at the …Remember the NASCAR race Atlanta lost? It went … not wellAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Racing newsmaker: Kyle BuschBrainerd Daily DispatchCUP: Kyle [...]

DawgInaTruck

July 12th, 2011
11:14 am

Some friends of mine went to the race and had no problems whatsoever. What amazed them was the gross incompetence of people responsible for traffic flow. Traffic was being routed to one single exit that clearly could not handle the number of cars. Meanwhile, another exit that allowed direct access to the track was all but deserted. Obviously, my friends used the lesser traveled of the two.

The also arrived at the track early that morning proving that longer tailgate parties are always the smartest idea.

[...] Remember the NASCAR race Atlanta lost? It went … not wellAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)(AJC photo by Johnny Crawford) You'll recall that the annual spring NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway became the new summer NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway, which sits 40 miles from Cincinnati off I-71. About this piece of highway, Bruton Smith …Hamlin success solid in NASCAR Sprint Cup RacingGamingTodaySlotsTodayGridlock at Ky.'s Sprint Cup race gets politicalUSA TodayBackseat Drivers Fan Council has message for track operators, NASCARThe Virginian-PilotThe Union Leader -Midwest Sports Fans -Louisville Courier-Journalall 2,784 news articles » [...]

Hines Ward

July 12th, 2011
11:16 am

U…

G…

A…

….

T…

L…

….

M…

N…

F…

L….

…..

…..

Yo…

k.chubbs

July 12th, 2011
11:20 am

“I’m trying my best to get the governor [Kentucky's Steve Beshear] to understand that Interstate 71 sucks. ”

You know what else sucks, NASCAR.

Nadsmasher

July 12th, 2011
11:20 am

NASCAR at Kentucky – another boring 1.5 mile tri-oval track. Give me short track, or even a road course.

Tech Fan

July 12th, 2011
11:23 am

What the hell is NASCAR and who gives a crap?

Unless you have a mullett and can only afford to drink Milwaukee’s Best, you have no business watching NASCAR.

Worst fans ever. Nothing but rednecks and white trash.

DC

July 12th, 2011
11:23 am

haha love it Hines! and nascar..bleh…i’ll wait for your next blog mr MB.

SafenSound

July 12th, 2011
11:25 am

@Najeh, that was freakin hilarious, lol! @ Gary, I completely agree the COT was the worst decision for those drivers coupled with new spoiler design and splinter, it’s a wonder the drivers haven’t gone on strike!

Truthteller

July 12th, 2011
11:26 am

No worse than the traffic on I-75 south of Atlanta on Saturday of Father’s Day weekend trying to get to the Braves game. Traffic backed up 30 miles. We had to do the same thing the folks in Kentucky did, turn around on go home…

pmcall

July 12th, 2011
11:28 am

As a person who sat in that mess for only 2 hours, we left at noon for a 7:30 pm green flag, I would like to point out the complete and total ineptness of the Kentucky State police. These officers stood by at choke points, and did nothing to bring control to traffic patterns. In fact when a car slightly ahead of us at the 57 off ramp began to honk to get there attention, the officers walked away so they could continue their conversation in relative peace.
We have been to 10-12 races in the southern U.S. and I have never seen the law enforcement agencies involved with traffic SO uninvolved.The Kentucky state troopers should be ashamed of themselves for not maintaining control.

Tech Fan

July 12th, 2011
11:29 am

I forgot to mention that in order to be a NASCAR fan, you must also be a UGA fan, as their fanbases are very similar. Both fan bases are consisted of rednecks, white trash, ex-cons, and inbreds. UGA’s is arguable worse because of the amount of sidewalk fans, which is bad in and of itself.

Clear examples of UGA and NASCAR fans can be seen all across the state, just look at the window decals and more times than not you’ll see a FAT UGAly “G” AND a NASCAR sticker. It’s disgusting.

Tech Fan

July 12th, 2011
11:30 am

Tech Fan

July 12th, 2011
11:34 am

In order to be a NASCAR fan you must also be a UGA fan.

Common links in UGA and NASCAR fans:

1. Majority of fans have mullets
2. Majority of fans have awful windown decals
3. Favorite beer is rejected Miller Lite (Milwaukee’s Best)
4. Majority of fans have at least 2 teeth missing
5. Majority of fans have done at least one night in prison
6. Majority of fans never actually went to college, much less finish high school

The results of this fanbase analysis are ground breaking and rather stunning.

Tech Fan

July 12th, 2011
11:35 am

Tech Fan

July 12th, 2011
11:38 am

A recent fanbase comparison of UGA and NASCAR revealed:

1. Majority of fans have mullets
2. Majority of fans never finished high school
3. Majority of fans have at least two teeth missing from their mouth
4. Majority of fans have been to prison
5. Majority of fans drink rejected Miller Lite (Milwaukee’s Best)

SAL

July 12th, 2011
11:49 am

Since NASCAR has kicked out the rednecks it has gone downhill!!!!

Rick

July 12th, 2011
11:53 am

Another greedy dumb fat pork eatin’ redneck republican.

What kind of name is Bruton anyway? Ain’t that a snuff?

UrADumbA%$

July 12th, 2011
11:53 am

What? A DA “Tech Fan” that doesn’t know how to spell mullet

Suburbanite

July 12th, 2011
12:01 pm

As a person that started watching NASCAR 50 years ago, I am disappointed the way NASCAR has gone. I do not go to NASCAR races. I given up on NASCAR, until they find their way again. They have spent too much time appealing to the masses and not the true stock car racing fan. I go to the local short track races, drag races and road races.

As for the track at Michigan, don’t be too smug. I was last there in 1994. It was an ASA race. It was a very good and well run race. But, the food was overpriced and of poor quality. I felt this poor quality food and high prices, showed a total lack of respect for the race fan.

Icepack

July 12th, 2011
12:16 pm

Nascar was once my bridge to football season (bowls to kickoff in Aug) but now I am bereft of sporting solace while baseball snoozes on by. Nascar has become very, very boring and “Vegas” in attidude…but mostly repetitive and boring. So I gave it another shot…thinking about going to Kentucky for the Indy Car event later this summer, wanted to see the track. After enduring a pre-race show as vapid as can be…I finally come back from other events and as they come tearing down the straightaway an announcer informs me that there will be a “competition yellow” at 30 laps.

What is competitive about racing under a yellow flag? I went elsewhere immediately. Just do not care anymore. Fan for 50 years is a good theme this year…my retirement papers to Nascar are being prepared…along with a suggestion to adopt the yellow flag as the symbol of Nascar as it abandons it’s roots and former fans.

Gary

July 12th, 2011
12:31 pm

Wow…..it must really suck to be a Tech fan. I will still take being a Georgia fan and Nascar fan over having the helpless life of being a Tech fan.

Doc Hollidawg

July 12th, 2011
12:48 pm

Techfan please stop blogging and get back to work. We need you to go down and clean the lobby restroom and then we need you run out and pick up our lunch.

Signed,
Your boss

really???

July 12th, 2011
12:48 pm

The thing that caused me to turn from NASCAR was the race endings. I started watching Formula 1, where if you have a large lead in the race, chances are you’ll have a large win. In NASCAR, if someone starts to pull away from the pack, they simply throw a caution and bunch up the field. You can create your own drama for only so long before people get tired of it.

PMC

July 12th, 2011
1:02 pm

Najeh, the motorcycles on 285 are a lot better. Sometimes they win.

Heath

July 12th, 2011
1:14 pm

Tech fans on the other hand, have a lot in common with the Atlanta Dream.

They lose a lot and nobody goes to their games.

Kyle

July 12th, 2011
1:17 pm

Glad to hear it….hope it gets worse. One of these days NASCAR will regret taking races away from Atlanta, Darlington, and Rockingham. There were people there long before it exploded in 2001 but that popularity is going away more and more. Expansion is fine but not at the expense of your roots.

dean

July 12th, 2011
1:18 pm

Let the racers race with what they show up with. THAT’S Racin’!

JM

July 12th, 2011
1:27 pm

Boring..who cares about a bunch of rednecks watching another bunch of rednecks driving in a circle and wasting gas.

Kentucky Jacket

July 12th, 2011
1:38 pm

Tech Fan, hold on. I am a proud Tech graduate, have missed probably 20 football games (home and away) since 1974 and hate the dogs as much as anyone but I also like NASCAR and I doubt you’ll get anyone who knows me to call me a redneck. I was at the race Saturday and sat in traffic 4 hours. It is not the state of Kentucky’s fault but rather the parking capacity and traffic plan (or lack there of)of the speedway. The bottlenecks occured because you couldn’t go anywhere once you got off the interstate. Mr Smith does have some explaining to do and he needs to spend quite a bit to handle the traffic once it is on his grounds.