By: Adam Niemeyer (FOX19 Sports)
Update: Kentucky Speedway owner Bruton Smith responds
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - NASCAR's President, Mike Helton, apologized to fans that were stuck in the massive traffic jam last Saturday before the Kentucky Speedway's inaugural Sprint Cup race, the Quaker State 400.
"It was very unfortunate that it happened," Helton said during a morning news conference at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "We're sorry for the fans that were touched by that unfortunate episode. We will not let this fall to the wayside until we get resolution to it."
NASCAR is coming to the point in the calendar year where they release next year's schedule. While at least one national writer said Kentucky should relinquish its 2012 date and prepare a better plan for 2013, Helton didn't speculate on whether or not the debacle that occurred last weekend would affect Kentucky's spot on the 2012 NASCAR schedule.
"I can't help but think, you look at the history of our sport, we've had issues that happen, and we generally figure out how to work through them," he said. "I think what we're after right now is to figure out what happened in Sparta and figure out what the cure is for it. Outside of that, I don't have an opinion at this point. But we're working toward a resolution."
Helton also said NASCAR was happy about the overall experience at Kentucky, traffic aside.
"I want to make sure that it doesn't get lost in all this talk about traffic. We were very pleased and excited about the overall support that fans showed the inaugural Sprint Cup race in Kentucky last week. It was impressive. Don't want that to get overshadowed."
Kentucky Speedway owner Bruton Smith then took the stage in the afternoon and talked for the first time to reporters about the traffic situation at his newest track. Smith, owner of Speedway Motorsports Inc., took some shots at tracks like Michigan and Talladega, who both issued releases after the Kentucky traffic incident.
"I don't think anybody, even the people who were unlucky enough to sit in traffic for four hours [knew]," said Smith. "I don't think anybody could foresee what occurred. I don't think anyone, maybe God knew, I don't know of anybody else that knew how many people would try to come and see this event."
Before the event Smith guaranteed that the race would be one of the biggest events of the year.
"I'm sincerely sorry that everybody did not get in there. I'm sorry that we had such a traffic [jam] although I had continuously warned people about that Interstate 71," Smith said. "I told everybody that would listen that Interstate 71 sucked. It's terrible. It's the lousiest piece of interstate that I've ever driven on. I was hoping that would get some attention. It got a little bit but it sure didn't get a lot."
Smith said that he would consider moving Kentucky's Sprint cup date to another one of his tracks if the Kentucky legislature didn't make any improvements to I-71. Smith and Gov. Steve Beshear will meet at a later date to discuss future improvements to the Sparta area.
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