NASCAR fans steaming mad over Kentucky race traffic Speedway Motor Bruton Smith was kidding when he said he expected most fans to return home from the track's inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Saturday night "by Tuesday."
Considering how difficult it was for people to get into the track, Tuesday may have been a bit generous.
The 1.5-mile oval's long-awaited Cup debut was marred by a massive traffic snarl that left fans stuck out on Interstate 71 for miles even as the green flag dropped. Cars were still slowly streaming into the parking gates more than 125 miles into the 400-mile event as nearby interstate turned into a massive parking lot.
Even those that made it to their seats well before the race were less than thrilled.
Randy Meyer and his brother Mark needed nearly eight hours to make the trip from Batesville, Ind., normally a 90-minute drive.
"It was a nightmare," Randy Meyer said. "I go to Indy every year for the (Indy) 500 and I've never seen anything this bad."
Track officials laid out explicit traffic plans in the weeks leading up to the race. Yet with a sellout crowd of 107,000 expected, many of them making their first trip to the area, it got messy. Really messy.
"Sure it was worse," said track general manager Mark Simendinger. "I knew we were going to have heavy traffic because of our turnout and the venue that we have and we were prepared for that, but clearly it was even beyond what we had anticipated."
Smith has been complaining about the infrastructure for weeks. On Friday he called 71 "the worst section of interstate highway in America."
It sure looked like it to Steve Wolf. The well-traveled NASCAR fan from Cincinnati called the drive to the track the worst he's ever seen.
"I've been to Indy, Talladega, Daytona, Texas, just all over," Wolf said. "This, this is bad."
The traffic didn't spare the drivers either.
Denny Hamlin grew so bored as his entourage waded through the gridlock he decided to play a version of "Where's Denny?" and offered the first fan to find him $20.
"Good news, bad news," Hamlin tweeted. "I'm probably not gonna make the drivers meeting in 3 hrs because I'm in this traffic with everyone else. ... Good news is I'm starting in the back anyway."
Smith said he has written Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear a note asking him to take a look at the situation. The state has already spent millions expanding 71 to three lanes going north. Doing the same south toward Louisville might be a good idea. It took nearly four hours for Mike Logan to cover the 13 miles from his hotel in Carrollton to the track.
"People told me south of the track was better," said Logan, who is from St. Louis. "If it is, I'd hate to see what happened to those folks coming the other way." SI.com (Related Article)
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