At first I though it was me. I was having a bad day. I was sick to my stomach. Kyle Busch was stinking on up the show at Kentucky Motor Speedway and TNT's enhanced audio was not really working out, I'm sure they way they envisioned it. As I logged on to Twitter, I thought to myself, "They left Atlanta for this." Little did I know that the problems were much worse than the boring racing.
I watched the reports on Twitter as the laps ticked off. Forty laps in, 60, 90 and people were still trying to get to the track and park. And then came this tweet from @jenmorrison83: "#NASCAR tix - $170. 5 hours of traffic - $50 gas. Turned away due to no parking when you get there. #fail @kyspeedway"
I began to become glued to twitter more than the race and the reports of thousands of fans being turned away from the track due to a lack of parking. The stories were sad, and the initial nonchalant response from the track made it worse. Let's just say that sick feeling in my stomach didn't get much better.
About half way through the race Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger released a statement that said: "We've had an overwhelming response to our inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400. We know we had challenges related to traffic. We're already planning improvements and looking forward to a much better situation for next year's event."
Sounds like a couple dozen people had trouble from that statement, not as one twitter report said, the 20, 000 fans that didn't make it into the track.
When word began to trickle out to the drivers after the race, twitter once again lit up with disapproval.
Brian Vickers tweeted: "Thx 2 all the great fans 4 coming out tonight. I apologize on behalf of our sport 4 all the traffic problems, It was unacceptable bull@#&*!"
Brad Keselowski said: "I really want to feel bad for the speedway, but i just can't. How could they not see this coming? Was 11 years lead time really not enough?"
Five time champ Jimmie Johnson tweeted: "I'm sorry to hear about the traffic troubles so many fans dealt with..."
JJ Yealy said: "I feel bad for all the fans that had to endure 4+ hours of traffic to get to the track.Thank you for trying and for being the best fans EVER"
And Elliott Sadler added: "I can't say sorry enough to the fans who went thru traffic issues..we all understand that without fans coming to races...we have nothing."
The drivers get it, even is it seems like the track doesn't.
It took the track until Monday for the track GM to apologise to the fans who sat in traffic all day, just to be turned away. They are also going to let fans exchange their tickets for another SMI race this season. The closest of which is Bristol Motorspeedway, some 400 miles away. They can also use them at Kentucky next season.
"To those fans that were not able to attend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, we offer our sincerest apologies," said Mark Simendinger, general manager, Kentucky Speedway. "We'd also like to apologize to all of our fans who endured challenging conditions during our event weekend. As we said earlier, we're committed to working with NASCAR, state and local officials and traffic experts to address Saturday's traffic issues to ensure that we never have this type of experience again."
The apology is nice. Still the remaining tracks are a long way away from Kentucky and would require a lot of gas and overnight stay. An unrealistic proposition for many, who already spent money to get to Kentucky this weekend. As for next year at Kentucky, if you went through all that, would you want to go back?
"While NASCAR was thrilled by the incredible response to our inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Kentucky, we also are extremely disappointed by the traffic problems," said NASCAR Chairman Brian France. NASCAR will be in close communications with Kentucky Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Inc. to see that they work to resolve the issues. This situation cannot happen again."
Bottom line? NASCSAR should never have allowed a race to be moved to a track that clearly wasn't ready for it. There were also plenty of reports on twitter about pour bathroom conditions and concessions that were not stocked to handle the massive crowd.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and while it is great that Kentucky was able to attract that many fans to the track, how many fans have they lost by dropping the ball on the inaugural race?
Most importantly for the sport is these can not be empty apologizes to the fans. They can not let this happen again. At Kentucky or any other track.