Thursday, June 07, 2001

Going to NASCAR race? You won't get there fast

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[photo] Traffic wasn't moving last June for a speedway event.
(Enquirer file photos)
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        SPARTA — The best advice provided by Kentucky Speedway and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials Wednesday for fans planning to attend the June 16 NASCAR Busch Series race here is to leave home early.

        Sound advice, considering the event is on track to smash the record for the largest sporting event attendance in the Tristate, set by the opening of Paul Brown Stadium last year. Just more than 64,000 attended that event.

        Speedway vice president and general manager Mark Cassis said that as of Wednesday afternoon, only about 4,000 tickets remain of the 66,000 seats at the 1.5-mile tri-oval for the Outback Steakhouse 300 Busch race. That means about 25,000 vehicles will descend on the track that Saturday.

        State highway officials outlined their traffic-management plans to make going to and coming from the track as easy as possible for race fans, but Mr. Cassis emphasized that people should anticipate some delay as they near the Ky. 35 exit off I-71 where the track is located.

[photo] Gravel has been spread to make parking easier, even when rains turn the ground into a soggy soft surface.
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        “You can't expect to leave your home somewhere in the Cincinnati area an hour before the race and expect to be there when the race starts,” he said. “That's just not going to happen. We open the gates at noon for an 8 p.m. race so people have plenty of time to get here and enjoy everything else that's going on.”

        Kentucky Highway Department District 6 chief engineer Charlie Meyers said he was “more confident this year” that traffic woes would be kept to a minimum.

        When the speedway opened last year with a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, heavy rain turned portions of the parking lot into mud, preventing many fans from entering the track and resulting in backups on I-71 as long as 12 miles.

        “The biggest change this year is for traffic exiting the speedway after the race,” Mr. Meyers said. A section of shoulder on I-71 has been paved and will provide a through lane to handle traffic northbound on the interstate bypassing the Ky. 35 exit.

   • What: Outback Steakhouse 300 NASCAR Busch Series stock car race.
   • When: June 16; race starts at 8 p.m. Gates open at noon.
   • Where: Kentucky Speedway, Interstate 71 and Ky. 35, Sparta, about 35 miles southwest of Cincinnati.
   • Tickets: About 4,000 tickets remained Wednesday. Speedway seating capacity is 66,089.     • Other highlights: Country star Brad Paisley concert at 5:45 p.m. on the speedway's main concourse; dedication of a life-size, 8,000-pound bronze statue of veteran NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip, at the Turn 3 Fan Center, at 5 p.m.; prerace show featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales, fireworks and F-14 jet flyover.
        Cars coming south on I-71 before the race will have three lanes of traffic, thanks to a crossover three miles north of the track. The extra lane created by the paved shoulder area will be the through lane for northbound traffic bypassing the speedway.

        After the race, two lanes will merge into I-71 from Ky. 35 in both directions, with through traffic using the paved shoulder lane.

        Two lanes of traffic will exit I-75 southbound to I-71. The I-75 northbound ramp to I—71 will be closed June 16 from noon to 8 p.m., with traffic detoured to the Richwood exit.

        Mr. Cassis said parking is greatly improved since last season, with the paved asphalt area doubled and all the feeder roads graveled.

        “There are about 10,000 parking spaces still in grassy areas, and we'll be watching them very closely over the next week,” he said. “But we've made amazing strides to upgrade the parking since last year.”

        Work continues on the I-71 interchange south of the speedway which will include a new access road onto the speedway property, but it won't be ready until next season.

        “Actually, the success of the speedway is outpacing the interstate work,” Mr. Cassis said.

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