Marcus Smith Discusses Kentucky Fallout

Marcus Smith, COO and President of Speedway Motorsports, parent company of Kentucky Speedway, joined Steve Byrnes Monday night on NASCAR Race Hub on SPEED to discuss the fallout from Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at the track that included a massive traffic backup. Following is a transcript from the interview:

Byrnes: You guys are experts at SMI. The fan response (with the sellout) was great but do you know what happened in Kentucky?

Smith: “Like you said, the fan response was great. We had such overwhelming support leading into the weekend and really all year since we announced we were going to bring Kentucky’s first Sprint Cup date to Kentucky Speedway. So, to have all that wonderful support, all the great fans come in and want to watch the race with us, it was really encouraging and we were really very grateful and thankful, but then to have the traffic backup the way it did really was disappointing for us. I know it was way more than disappointing for the fans out there. They had vacations and plans and had really their whole weekends planned out and Saturday night we had just such a huge backup of traffic in spite of planning. Like you said, we’ve done this before. We’ve conducted a lot of races with even more fans coming in than what we had at Kentucky Speedway. It’s really tough to say what happened or what could have been different. But in hindsight, we can see where we need to make adjustments. It’s hard to put one finger on it but I can tell you we’ve been hard at work at it since Saturday and we’re going to make a big difference next year."

Byrnes: Your dad, Bruton Smith, estimated as many as 20,000 fans were turned away. As a dad, I worry about the guy who was bringing his son or daughter in for their first race and didn’t get in. Short term, what do you say to those fans? What’s the response from SMI?

Smith: “What we’ve done is put together a program where any fan who will call us or contact Kentucky Speedway and let us know they couldn’t get to the race on Saturday night, we’re going to give them a free ticket to any one of our races left this season in 2011. We’ve got Atlanta coming up with Labor Day weekend. We’ve got Charlotte, Texas, New Hampshire this weekend and the Bristol race in August. We’ve got a lot of races yet to come. We’ve got races that are really great and in demand yet to come. We’re also going to make the 2012 Kentucky race available for fans that couldn’t get into the race on Saturday night. I don’t think that’s ever been done in racing before. I know we’ve never done it and I’ve never heard of it being done."

Byrnes: What do you mean by “make it available?"

Smith: “I mean give a free ticket to any fan who couldn’t get into the race on Saturday night to make up for the horrible traffic that was out there. We really pride ourselves on being the best in racing with fan amenities and customer service, so for something like this to happen at one of our speedways is very unusual. We’re really sad that it happened and we really want to do what we can to make it right for fans out there. So, free ticket for any race coming up this season. We’ve also extended an invitation for all the fans who joined us at Kentucky but couldn’t get in to come back on us to the Truck or the Indy race later this year at Kentucky, as well."

Byrnes: What do you say long-term to the fans? How do you make it right?

Smith: “You’re right and that’s really what matters because when fans come back next year, what they’re going to see is a completely different scenario. We’re going to have shuttle buses coming from hotels in the cities that are nearby the speedway. We’re going to have more remote parking where people can park a little farther from the speedway and come in on bus."

Byrnes: I’ve seen you do that at Bristol …

Smith: “Sure, Bristol, Texas, Las Vegas does it phenomenally. When we opened up Vegas, for instance, there was massive traffic backed up for miles and people didn’t make it in for the green flag. After that, there was a huge momentum to improve the traffic at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and since then, it’s probably one of the best, if not the best, speedways for traffic on the circuit. So, that’s the silver lining here. We didn’t want to get the great (improved) traffic with the expense and the problems of the fans this past weekend, but I think it’s going to work out in the long run to be better so we can actually make really huge strides in the traffic management, so when people come to the speedway, they’re going to have a great time and be able to enjoy the whole day.

“I just want to say to all the fans out there, we really appreciate what they did to come in and enjoy the race. It was a huge weekend for a lot of fans. We had track presidents and marketing guys and the whole crew … I was out … we were conducting traffic. People saw my dad out conducting traffic. We had all hands and then some on deck to try to get everybody in better and we’re going to make it up to them going forward."

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