Kentucky track offers ticket exchange

Updated: July 12, 2011, 1:22 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

Kentucky Speedway and parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc., offered apologies Monday, along with a future ticket exchange, because of the excessive traffic problems Saturday at the Sparta track prior to and after hosting Kentucky's inaugural Sprint Cup race.

"To those fans that were not able to attend the Quaker State 400, we offer our sincerest apologies," track general manager Mark Simendinger said in a statement. "We'd also like to apologize to all of our fans who endured challenging conditions during our event weekend.

I sympathize with the angry people who didn't get in; I was one of them.

-- Kentucky Senate president David Williams in a statement on traffic problems

"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."

Government officials also are getting involved. The Kentucky legislature plans to hold a hearing in September to address what can be done to alleviate such problems in the future.

Some fans waited in traffic for more than six hours to attend the race. Others were turned away after they arrived because no parking was available. The traffic gridlock extended as far as 20 miles at times before the race.

"I would like to apologize on behalf of Speedway Motorsports to the fans who had tickets, yet due to logistical issues, were not able to attend the inaugural Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway," Marcus Smith, president and chief operating officer of SMI, said in a statement.

"For those fans with tickets who were unable to attend Saturday night's event, we will honor their ticket at any remaining 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at a Speedway Motorsports facility, or the 2012 Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway."

SMI tracks will host six more Cup races this season, including the race Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Other SMI races are Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 27, Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sept. 4, New Hampshire again on Sept. 25, Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 15 and Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 6.

"Our company has always been about enhancing the fan experience with first-class amenities and putting fans first,'' Smith said in the statement. "I feel terrible for the fans that had a bad experience at Kentucky Speedway. We are asking that they give us a chance to make it up to them.

[+] EnlargeKentucky Speeway Traffic
AP Photo/Jonathan PalmerAn enormous line of stopped traffic waits to get out of the Kentucky Speedway after the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race early Sunday morning. Officials vowed to rectify the issues before next year's event.

"We are very thankful for the overwhelming fan support we had for this inaugural event. We learned some valuable lessons this past weekend and will do everything in our power to make sure we don't have these issues again."

The race was sold out a week in advance. The facility seats 107,000, but officials said at least 10,000 never made it to their seats.

Kentucky Senate president David Williams said Kentucky Senate transportation chairman Ernie Harris has agreed to hold the hearing.

"I sympathize with the angry people who didn't get in; I was one of them," Williams said in a statement on Monday. "On behalf of those impacted and on behalf of all taxpayers, I am going to focus on analyzing the problem, getting information and finding a solution so Kentucky isn't again embarrassed nationally.

"While I do not believe there should be a rush to judgment, I do think the legislature has a responsibility to investigate the public safety issues created by Saturday's debacle and ensure that signature economic development events reflect well on Kentucky."

In addition to the ticket exchange for other Cup events, Kentucky Speedway will issue affected fans an equal quantity of tickets to either its NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Oct. 1 or IndyCar Series event on Oct. 2.

"We felt like this was a situation we wanted to roll out all the stops, and go above and beyond," Smith told The Associated Press. "All the plans we made and all the effort we put forth didn't produce the results we wanted, and we want to try our best to make it right with fans who are understandably frustrated."

Meantime, rival tracks are pouncing on the opportunity to take shots at Kentucky and SMI.

The president of Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday assured fans "his staff is well prepared to handle the influx of more than 100,000" at the track's October race, and Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis said the Kentucky problems hurt all track operators.

"As a track promoter, I am saddened and embarrassed about what happened this weekend ... that speedway, having been open for racing since 2000, should have known the challenges it would face when it tripled in size," Curtis wrote in a blog Monday.

"It appears the mentality at some other racetracks today is to see how much money they can make off a fan. Their line of thinking is to ban coolers, have fire sales on last-minute tickets, build, build, build without thinking, thinking, thinking, and blame others for their mistakes."

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, meanwhile, said fans who present a Kentucky ticket can receive free track admission on Friday, July 29, or $5 admission on Saturday, July 30. Kentucky ticketholders can also park for free in designated IMS lots.

"We have easy, efficient access to and from the track that allows our fans to participate in activities at the track and, in just a matter of minutes, enjoy all that the city of Indianapolis has to offer or be well on the road toward home or the hotel," IMS president Jeff Belskus, who contrasted Kentucky's remote location, told The AP.

Smith declined to comment directly on the comments from his rivals, but said SMI prides itself in top notch facilities with continued focus on capital improvements and creating outstanding fan experiences.

"It's heartbreaking when something like this happens, and you hope people give you some grace and the benefit of the doubt," Smith said to The AP.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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