They say it takes centuries to grow a forest, and just minutes to burn it down. Whatever good will had been forged between NASCAR fans and the Kentucky Speedway in years past went burning down like flash fire after the disaster at was the inaugural Sprint Cup race in the Bluegrass State last year at the Quaker State 400. The operators at SMI had a monumental reforestation on their hands.
How did they do last weekend? We asked someone who actually went there, NASCAR uberfan and blogger Jeremy T. Sellers, proprieter of “Jerm’s Joint Racing Pub.” Besides his knowledge of adult beverages, Jeremy is passionate, so nothing’s held back. What’s more, he’s attended some 30 Cup races, ranging from Daytona to Michigan, Dover to the Brickyard, so this wasn’t his first rodeo.
In fact, Sellers was a part of last year’s debacle. “Everyone deserves a second chance” he said. After that fiasco, he found it interesting that HE was called by the ticket agent instead of the other way around. Promised a great view of the start/finish line left of the flag stand and 17 rows up, he couldn’t say “no.” He said the seats were excellent, and you could see the whole track from the vantage point Jeremy and his wife shared.
This year, fans needed to know that if they committed to go, they could actually see the race, and not be mired in traffic. Sellers said he was able to follow progress on traffic and facility improvements through the track’s website, Facebook and Twitter.
The widening of the roads and additional acreage to the parking lot made for a much smoother flow of traffic into the facility. Speaking of facilities, Sellers said more porta potties were brought in, much to his relief! No more “doing the pee pee dance for an hour and 53 minutes” waiting for a single seater (Ugh. I can only imagine what the condition that must have been in by say, about lap 200). Still, Jeremy says more could have been added. Another plus was Sellers’ longsuffering wife not missing out on 63 laps of green flag racing, only to deliver a cold burger, washed down with a warm bottle of water.
The EMT from Ohio said “Bruton Smith got the message and came through.” With that said, there’s still much more room for improvement. One issue is getting out. Sellers likened Saturday night’s experience to leaving Texas Motor Speedway in 1999, where it took four hours to leave. For his point of view as a fan, Sellers says the folks at Kentucky could learn a thing or two from Daytona. Perhaps more routes out? We’re not traffic engineers here, but it does sound ike a winner from here.
Perhaps the bigger issue is the quality of the racing. While tailgating and shooting the breeze with fellow fans is a big art of the experience, Sellers remarked, and I think many who watched on the tube would agree, there was little to no passing. He said it was like watching cars on a conveyor belt, going around in circles. I will add that if the racing isn’t good, you can get all the food and the same sense of community at a fourth of July picnic,and it doesn’t cost as much, though Sellers felt good about the ticket price this year, to be fair. For Sellers, a Brad Keselowski win helped, but a Dale Earnhardt Jr. win would have been better. Knowing how Jeremy thinks, I can assure he’ll take it over last year’s result (a Kyle Busch victory.
So, to the key question of whether or not he’d be back, Jeremy said it’s hard to say. He said there were big time improvements, and that accounts for something, but right now, with Kentucky Speedway, you have a big track, a clean track, but only one groove. It kind of reminds me of Lloyd Christmas in Dumb and Dumber. When he asks what are the chances of a guy like him hooking up with a girl like the lovely Mary Swanson, she says the the chances “aren’t good.” “Not good? You mean like one in a hundred?” “I’d say more like….one in a million.” “So you say there’s a chance. Yes!” The good news concerning SMI tracks, Bruton Smith has shown he’s not afraid of the bold move if that’s what it takes to get hineys in the seats, so there’s still a chance.
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Jim McCoy is a TV and radio sports anchor living in Oregon with his wife and three kids. Jim also moonlights as a radio play-by-play man and writes about his true sports passion: NASCAR. To paraphrase, racing is a sport, the others are just games.