Sunday, July 10, 2011

One fan's Kentucky traffic tale

   We live in LaGrange Ky, just off exit 22 on I-71. On Saturday afternoon, my wife and another couple left our home in two vehicles just after 2:00pm for the 33 mile drive to the track. Our friends were particularly excited to be attending the race because their tickets had been a Father's Day gift from their son who is currently serving in Afghanistan. At mile marker 39 (about 2:20 p.m.), a full 16 miles from our exit, traffic came to a complete stop. For the next 5 hours and 45 minutes we alternated between a (mostly) dead stop and a snails pace. To the credit of those in the cars around us, tempers were held in check and during those moments when we would all exit our cars and mill about on the interstate the mood was not so much anger but a mixture of disbelief, disappointment and resignation. 
   Despite the prevailing attitude of those around us, the hours spent mired in traffic were not without some tense moments. At various times we were passed by no less than six ambulances en route to the local hospital who were navigating a berm blocked every few hundred yards with overheating and/or out of gas vehicles. It should be noted that during this time on the interstate we were unable to find a radio station which broadcast traffic information and the only law enforcement presence we observed was a single patrol car parked in the median, the officer enjoying snacks and bottled water in the comfort of his vehicle.
   At 8 p.m., 15 minutes after the green flag, we had finally reached our exit (#55) but found ourselves (still) mired in traffic and at a dead stop two miles from the speedway. At this point rumors began to circulate from car to car that the parking lots were completely full and that they were about to start turning people away. It was impossible to verify these rumors as (again) we could find no local station broadcasting traffic information and the only law enforcement presence consisted of two Highway Patrol vehicles parked at the off ramp (the officers inside the vehicles and apparently occupied with something other than traffic) and another Highway Patrolman, who we observed posing for snapshots with fans who had abandoned their vehicles and elected to walk the two-plus miles to the speedway. At this point my wife and I came to the conclusion that given the utter chaos surrounding us and with little hope of actually seeing any of the race that we would cut our losses and return home. With a wave to our friends who had elected to press on, we made a U-turn in the highway and gave up on the idea of attending the race.
   On our return trip south (this now roughly 8:30 p.m.) we observed traffic still backed up and more or less at a complete stop for a full 13 miles. At one of the exits we elected to make a stop for a restroom break.  I had an opportunity to chat with some of the many people who were milling about the parking lot. In addition to the disappointed race fans I also spoke with an elderly woman, traveling alone, who had spent six hours stuck in traffic on her way from Cincinnati to Louisville. She told me she believed her car had ran out of gas as she pulled into the pumps. Then there were the six people traveling (initially traveling in two vehicles) to a family members wedding in Ohio. One of the cars had overheated while idling in traffic and was abandoned on the berm. After sitting through another two hours of traffic they realized they could not make the wedding and had turned around in the median and were heading home.
   This morning we called our friends who had elected to press on when we decided to turn around. It was a brief conversation as they were still asleep after arriving home at 4:30 a.m. this morning. The gist of our conversation was that after navigating another mile long gauntlet of confusion and incompetence, they finally found a place to abandon their vehicle and walked the last mile to the track, arriving at about 9:45 p.m. Apparently they were among the last people in the traffic jam to gain entry into the speedway as not far behind them the Highway Patrol had closed access and had began turning traffic around.

   Thank you for listening. I hope your next trip to Kentucky is without incident and that you won't be writing post race stories about massive traffic jams.
   Steve Pearson
   LaGrange, KY


  1. Bruton owes you and a bunch of other fans an apology and a FULL REFUND.

  2. Lost a TON of respect for SMI and Bruton Smith this weekend. They had to have known this would happen. Typical Bruton trying to strong arm the local government for some sort of tax breaks or money.

  3. My family and I were at this race. Living in Ohio, Kentucky seemed like a great place to take my family for their first at the track experience. Boy was I WRONG!!! We like so many others trying to get off the freeway moved a grand total of 11 miles in 3- 1/2 hrs. Having been to other tracks I knew there would be traffic issues, but this place was totally unprepared for the level of people at a cup race. There were police officers at each light, but they were sitting in their cars. How the hell are you supposed to direct traffic sitting in your car?? Obviously they can’t, and didn’t care. Once we finally did get in a parking place ($20.00 a car mind you), we found ourselves in a mud pit field that had not had the grass mowed in ages. There were large pieces of construction concrete rubble sticking out of the ground (as if perhaps they had filled in a pond to make “land”) that made it very slow going and dangerous for both cars and people alike. We had to walk about 3 miles to the track, and once on the speedway property still had to walk even farther because 90 % of the shuttles were going out, and the 10 % that were going in the correct direction was EMPTY and being driven by a “cup driver wanna be” that practically ran over the crowd in their rush to get back to the gate and take more people out. NOT A SINGLE ONE HAD PEOPLE GOING IN TO THE TRACK. WTH?!?!?! (in a situation where the flow of traffic is staggeringly crippled, perhaps they should be working on taking people in at the start of the race and not back to their cars to drop of purchased items...) during this long walk to the gates they herded the entire population of incoming fans completely around to the back side for one entrance area, and with a handicapped person in our group there was never any sign of assistance parking or shuttle from our arrival in Sparta. IF THAT all weren't crazy enough, it still got even worse. The track website declares no coolers. At a NASCAR race?? Really??? Ok fine, so we didn't take one. What it did say was we could carry ONE bottle of water up to 20 oz. SO WHY, after the fans endured 96 degree heat sitting in cars for hours, walking miles after that, did they take those single bottles of water if a person had dared to open the lid and refresh themselves from the heat. (I’m not kidding they actually took one straight out of son’s hand because it had 2 drinks missing). When I questioned the gate person about the rules saying we could carry a single water each, he very rudely said “NOT IF IT”S OPEN!!” and threw it in the trash can. (There was nothing on the rules that had indicated that) Once inside I understood fully. $4.00 for a 16 oz bottle of water. But that was not the only greed this place displayed. A worker at one of the mixed drink stands brazenly walked out of the stand, and changed the price of the drinks from $3.50 to $10.00 right in the middle of a crowd. Leaving the track was even worse. 7 hours to make a 2 hour distance..
    I have to say for a venue to have fought so hard and declared court proceeding to get a cup event there, they were grossly unprepared. And I truly felt bad about it being my Mother and son’s first at the track experience and promised to take them to a better place next time, because I completely agree with the common statement most of the people were making, as we left. “I WILL NOT BE COMING BACK HERE AGAIN!”

  4. Sounds exactly like Super Bowl XLV in Arlington. I hope they never get another SB or SMI gets another Cup race. SMH

  5. The situation sounds just like the first few races at New Hampshire. That was the same traffic nightmare. Traffic was backed up for miles on a 2 lane highway after getting off the interstate. It took a few years to get it straightened out but they finally got it right. They were not ready for the amount of cars going to the track or those who actually made it to the track.

  6. Jim,

    I would really like to read your stuff more often, but you blocked me for some reason on twitter.. Only way I know you have made a post or a blog is when somebody retweets it. Twitter name is RyanECU

  7. I was right behind you. We drove from Crestwood after giving our babysitter 100$ to watch our little ones. My tix were a mothers day present from my husband and kiddos. On a positive note, I got to spend some quality time with my husband (get your mind out of the gutter). At least we had siriusxm nascar. Heard they are honoring the tix next year.

  8. A - indeed. Nothing will ever beat 1995 when the traffic jam at NHIS stretched from the track all the way to the I-93 interchange with I-89 MILES south of Concord, NH.

  9. I don't get how this happens... Infineon Raceway is an SMI track. There's one way east/west to get in and out. While traffic is a bear, which is to be expected, it's never been ANYTHING like Kentucky's morass. This is astounding.