Kentucky Speedway boss confident traffic, parking woes solved

Mark Simendinger, general manager of Kentucky Speedway, might be looking forward to the June 30 NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 more than anyone else in the state. Even at a feel-good event, Tuesday's unveiling of the new 2013 Ford Escape pace vehicles built at Louisville's Ford Assembly Plant, even with Daytona 500 champ Matt Kenseth on hand to hype the event, the talk eventually turned to traffic.

"I cannot wait," Simendinger said. "I used to play sports a lot. I played a lot of baseball, and there were certain pitchers that I couldn't hit, and I wasn't too thrilled about going up and facing those guys. But when I knew I was going to be able to hit somebody, I couldn't wait to get up. And that's the way I feel right now because we are ready to go."

Last year's traffic debacle at the speedway's inaugural Sprint Cup event is well-documented. In fact, the traffic and parking nightmare quickly came to be synonymous with the venue, which in turn has been its own nightmare for track officials as they seek to get back on the lead lap with customers. Over the past 10 months the state widened the I-71 ramp at Ky. 35 and widened the state road to seven lanes. The track bought 173 acres across the street for parking, converted 50 more acres on site to parking and constructed a 42-foot pedestrian tunnel to connect the new parking area to the speedway.

Speedway officials also hired a new parking service to run race-day traffic and increased the number of trams and interior roadways at the track, while also constructing an overpass to its infield tunnel to separate tram and infield traffic. "We've spent a lot of money and time and preparation," Simendinger said. "We've done all this computer simulation modeling, so I know it works, but all you can do is open up the doors and let everyone see for themselves. And we can't wait to do that. … I'm excited. Things are starting to build up and the focus is building to the racing, as it should be." As the 2012 race draws closer, Simendinger and everyone at Kentucky Speedway hopes the attention turns to that kind of traffic detail instead of the kind that made headlines last year. But they know that until they get the race crowd in and out, the shadow still will be there. Some tickets remain for the race. For the first time, fans will be allowed to bring their own coolers into the grandstand (14 by 14 inches, no alcoholic beverages). Courier-Journal

Kentucky Speedway and the state have spent millions to expand parking and improve infrastructure and access after heavy traffic and parking problems kept thousands from attending the inaugural Sprint Cup Series race last summer. Last week, a team of top NASCAR officials visited the speedway to survey the improvements. "From our standpoint, I thought it was a very good meeting," Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger said Tuesday. "I appreciated them coming in and taking the time to see all the hard work that we put in." Cincinnati Enquirer

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