Bruton Smith on race: We'll get it right
CONCORD, N.C. -- Bruton Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc. and the owner of Kentucky Speedway, said SMI has spent more than $10 million in the past six months on major improvements to alleviate the enormous traffic problems most fans experienced at the inaugural Sprint Cup race last July.
"We want this year's [Cup] race to be really the second inaugural event," Smith said Wednesday. "We want a do-over and a second chance to show all the fans we can get it right."
We want a do-over and a second chance to show all the fans we can get it right.” -- Bruton Smith
Many fans were stuck in gridlock for more than six hours trying to get to the race last summer. Some were turned away when they arrived because there was no parking; others simply turned around and went home.
"A lot of positive came from that first event," Kentucky Speedway president Mark Simendinger said, "but we realize we had a very large negative and we have to make sure that doesn't happen again."
Kentucky Speedway officials held a news conference Wednesday on Day 3 of the annual NASCAR media tour, listing all of the improvements being made.
SMI has purchased 173 acres of land adjacent to the speedway for additional parking. A tunnel is being built under Highway 35 so fans can get from the new parking area to the track.
Highway 35, the main road into the facility, is being expanded to seven lanes. And Interstate 71 is being widened to three lanes for the southbound exit ramp.
Many of the grass parking lots have added gravel aisles to make parking easier and more efficient. The speedway has hired a new company to handle all of its on-site parking.
SMI also has hired Stantec, a respected Canadian engineering firm, to produce computer models of parking scenarios to best serve the traffic flow on race day. And dozens of new restrooms are being built inside the facility.
The improvements are expected to be completed by the first week of May. The facility will add between 12,200 and 18,700 additional parking spots, which will serve 36,600 to 56,100 additional fans.
Kentucky Speedway officials were able to laugh at themselves a bit in the process. Wednesday, orange barrels and cones were set up for reporters to follow to an interview room. And Kentucky Speedway has a new promotional poster with a yellow construction sign that reads, "We're Fixin' It!"
"All in all, we've spent over $10 million to do this," Smith said. "I will predict you are going to love what you see. Everyone is going to have a good time and, hopefully, at the end, say, 'Well done.' "
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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