Speedway strands disabled race fans Altoona retiree Tom Abbott had a great time seated among the 56,000 people who watched the big NASCAR race Saturday at the Iowa Speedway at Newton.
But he describes what happened afterward as a nightmare for 40 to 50 disabled spectators. They were stranded for about two hours without rides to satellite parking areas after the inaugural U.S. Cellular 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
Abbott, 71, who has serious difficulty walking because of degenerative problems with his hips, said he plans to file a complaint against the Iowa Speedway alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Randy Kunert on Tuesday confirmed Abbott's account that disabled patrons had difficulty getting shuttle rides after the race.
Mike Beecher, the Iowa Speedway's director of media relations, issued a statement Tuesday acknowledging an "unfortunate incident" following the race and pledging a review.
"We pride ourselves in the fact that many men and women with disabilities enjoy the atmosphere we provide at Iowa Speedway, and persons with disabilities are most welcome at our track - where our brief record reflects an overall sense of Iowa hospitality," the statement said.
The Iowa Speedway hosted its largest crowd ever Saturday after adding 25,000 temporary seats. The problems that disabled patrons encountered are reminiscent of logistical snags in June 2007, when thousands of frustrated fans were late for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 because of traffic gridlock and parking congestion.
Abbott said track officials reneged on their promises to provide post-race shuttle service for disabled patrons from the track to the Newton airport, about a mile away, which served as an overflow parking area. Some of the people waiting for shuttle service used wheelchairs and others were on crutches, he said.
"It was sad to see the condition of all the people who remained for the two-hour wait with no promise of any solution," Abbott said.
"Some young men ... were standing on crutches with only one remaining leg. There were many crippled and obviously impaired individuals."
He said security workers couldn't get help despite repeatedly contacting track officials to request rides for disabled race fans. Shuttles were provided about two hours later after intervention by the Iowa State Patrol and paramedics, he said.
Kunert said troopers were told by track officials that because of large numbers of people leaving the speedway on foot, officials did not think it was safe to run a shuttle. More at dmreg.com