The fallout from Saturday’s traffic disaster at Kentucky Speedway continued Monday afternoon.
After NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France issued a statement late Sunday evening, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. responded by offering a ticket exchange and an apology.
"To those fans that were not able to attend the Quaker State 400, we offer our sincerest apologies," general manager Mark Simendinger said.
"We’d also like to apologize to all of our fans who endured challenging conditions during our event weekend. 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."
"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," said Marcus Smith, president and chief operating officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. "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.
"Our company has always been about enhancing the fan experience with first-class amenities and putting fans first. I feel terrible for the fans that had a bad experience at Kentucky Speedway and we are asking that they give us a chance to make it up to them. 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."
Fans that missed out on the race will be able to exchange their unused tickets at the following SMI races:
July 17 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Aug. 27 – Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 4 – Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sept. 25 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Oct. 15 – Charlotte Motor Speedway
Nov. 6 – Texas Motor Speedway
2012 – Kentucky Speedway
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Also Helping
In addition, Indianapolis Motor Speedway stepped in and offered fans with a Kentucky Sprint Cup Series ticket a free ticket to watch Brickyard 400 practice Friday, July 29 or a $5 ticket for Saturday’s Brickyard 400 qualifying.
The speedway will also offer free parking to those fans Friday and Saturday in Lots 1, 2, and 3, and a $10 discount on weekend Track Scan scanner and headset rentals.
Roger Curtis Is Upset
In response to Saturday’s situation and how Kentucky Speedway and SMI handled it, Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis wrote a letter to the NASCAR fans.
While highly critical of Kentucky Speedway, Curtis was clear in saying he was in no way trying to take advantage of the situation and was not “about kicking a race track when it’s done.”
“What should have been a shining moment for the sport of NASCAR and all the racetracks, especially those in the Midwest, has sadly, potentially, put all of us back several steps – maybe even years.
A sellout NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway should have signaled the continuation of great things for race fans in the Midwest and for our sport.
Unfortunately Saturday’ night’s events became an exercise in blame and unpreparedness – and race fans, corporate partners, media and drivers were caught in the middle.
As a track promoter I am saddened and embarrassed about what happened this weekend. To think all the hard work that we’ve done here at Michigan International Speedway and other tracks have done could be so quickly erased by Saturday’s events. That speedway, having been open for racing since 2000, should have known the challenges it would face when it tripled in size.
Just to be clear: This isn’t about kicking a race track when it’s down. We all make mistakes and MIS has certainly had past issues with traffic.
And it isn’t about trying to sway a Kentucky Speedway ticketholder to come to Michigan – though we will be happy to treat them the way they should be treated should they want to give us a chance.
It’s about apologizing and doing what’s right when you are clearly in the wrong. It is about having your priorities right in the first place – on the fan experience.
That’s why I’m upset.
It is bad enough the racetrack went into the weekend knowing traffic was going to be worse than they had previously had with other series. But to think Bruton Smith made light of it with the media, and then pointed the finger at the State of Kentucky when posed with traffic questions is unfathomable.
We work tirelessly with our legislators and local officials to ensure traffic moves efficiently and safely. We collaborate with local communities, our state, public safety officials and first-responders to ensure an event at Michigan International Speedway is a true public-private partnership; and not a business threatening to hold its region hostage to meet our demands.
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.
Don’t get me wrong: We are not perfect. But we listen to our fans, we recognize our shortcomings and we try to overcome them so race fans don’t feel the burden. Most importantly, we learn from them so those mistakes don’t happen again.
Michigan International Speedway is sincere when we say we want to do things for our fans to grow our business. That’s why we lowered ticket prices for all our loyal fans, why we launched a Fan Appreciation program, why we have a Fan Advisory Board, why we allow larger coolers in the grandstands, why parking is always free and plenty, why we have invested more than $60 million in our facility the past four years, why we continue to work with the State of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan State Police to manage race-day traffic and why we have real race fans give a Fans’ Trophy to the winning driver in Victory Lane.
We try really hard to educate our fans on traffic and our facility, have a system of feedback and information sharing with all our guests, and we listen to our guests about changes we need to make to grow our business. Fans are our bottom line.
On behalf of the MIS staff, I apologize to all the race fans whose expectations were not met this weekend, but also to those who read all the stories and were taken back by the treatment other people received.
That is not how we do business at our racetrack – and it’s certainly not indicative of how every track operates. I hope fans recognize this and realize the vast majority in this great sport (not just tracks, but NASCAR officials, drivers and owners, as well) are working hard for the fans and do have their priorities right.
We do not take our guests for granted and we pledge to do everything we can every day to make your experience at MIS the best it can be.
We won’t undercut our loyal customers with a knee-jerk ticket offer to make up for what happened on Saturday. But we will match what our loyal customers received by offering any race fan who has not had their expectations met at any racetrack with our lowest ticket price of the season for seats in Turns 1 and 3. Send us your race ticket and you can purchase a reserved ticket for $45 for the August 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.”
More articles by this author:
Kyle Busch Wins Inaugural Race At Kentucky Speedway As Traffic Issues The Headlines