Friday, July 15, 2011
Mike Helton working on Kentucky issues
By Terry Blount ESPN.com
LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR president Mike Helton said the organization is determined to find out what went wrong with the enormous traffic problems last weekend at Kentucky Speedway to ensure they do not occur again.
"We were very pleased with the overall response at Kentucky last week," Helton said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "But we take what happened very serious.
It's safe to say there were many disillusioned racing fans stuck on the road into Kentucky Speedway for last weekend's Sprint Cup race at Sparta.
"Everybody is engaged in this topic to find out exactly what happened so a fix can be determined. We will not let this fall to the wayside."
All 107,000 seats were sold for the inaugural Sprint Cup race at Sparta, Ky., last weekend, but some fans waited for more than six hours in traffic to reach the track. Some of those fans were turned away after they arrived because no parking was available. The gridlock extended as far as 20 miles at times before the race.
Officials for Kentucky Speedway and parent company Speedway Motorsports Inc. offered apologies Monday, along with a future ticket exchange, because of the excessive traffic problems Saturday.
Friday was the first time Helton has spoken about the issues.
"We all work together in a unified goal of delivering an appealing product to the fans," Helton said, "but sometimes we have hiccups. We have had inaugural races like Texas and Vegas [in the past] that I wouldn't define as acceptable. We have issues that happen and we generally find out how to work through them."
Kentucky public officials also are getting involved. The state legislature plans to hold a hearing in September to address what can be done to alleviate such problems in the future. Helton said he hasn't spoken to any state officials this week.
"There were a lot of meetings in advance of the race," Helton said. "There was a reliance on the promoter that hosts the event. This wasn't our first NASCAR race there, so was there overconfidence involved? We'll have to see as we go along.
"I don't want to jump ahead prior to us finding out all the facts, but there was a lot of construction and a lot of ground being moved at the facility."
Helton is confident the mistakes can be rectified.
"I'd like to think we will overcome the glitch," he said. "The teams and drivers delivered on their end."
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com.