Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Speedway to get extra exit

Traffic had 1-hour wait

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPARTA — After many in the sellout crowd of more than 70,000 had trouble leaving the track last month, Kentucky Speedway officials realized a second entrance/exit was an absolute necessity.

        That second outlet won't be available for the Kroger 225 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race Saturday night, but Mark Cassis, speedway executive vice president and general manager, said Monday that state highway officials have promised a new interchange south of the speedway will be ready for next season.

        “We realized after the (June 16) Busch race that we really need that second exit for a capacity crowd,” Mr. Cassis said during a press conference at the track attended by a trio of drivers who will compete on the 1.5-mile tri-oval speedway this weekend.

        He said he had been informed by Kentucky Highway Department officials the new Interstate 71 interchange under construction two miles south of the track will be completed by the end of 2001, allowing the speedway to build an entrance and roadway from the interchange into the rear of the 1,000 acre property.

        “We must be able to get people out of the back side of the property after a race,” Mr. Cassis said. “We had some complaints after the Busch race from people who sat in the parking lot for an hour or more, unable to move.”

        Attendance for the truck race Saturday is expected to be around 40,000, with about half that number for the Friday night ARCA stock car race, so track officials don't anticipate any difficulties in moving cars in and out.

        But a crowd of 40,000 is impressive for truck racers such as Terry Cook who drives the Power Stroke Diesel Ford F-150 entry.

        “I wonder if people around here know what a great track this is,” Mr. Cook said Monday.

        He said the NASCAR

        Craftsman Truck Series drivers are accustomed to racing before crowds of 15,000-20,000. And Chevrolet Silverado driver Travis Kvapil chimed in, “Yeah, what other track has an Outback Steakhouse in the infield.”

        Speedway President and part-owner Jerry Carroll, who has enlisted the services of U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, as grand marshal for the truck race, emphasizes “the track is the main player in this game.”

        “We have the drivers and the race cars, and a lot of other attractions, but the facility becomes the main player,” he said. “We have to make this as pleasant and attractive as possible for the fans. That's why we need the second entrance and exit. We received a number of letters and phone calls from people who were upset about the length of time it took to leave after the race in June.

        “It's most important to get everyone in before the race starts, and we did a good job of that. But we don't want people unhappy because they are stuck in the parking lot after the race.”

        Mr. Carroll pointed out that on June 16, the speedway was, in effect, a city, with more than 70,000 people inhabiting an area of about 500 acres.


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