SPARTA, Ky. - NASCAR fans can get a behind-the-scenes look at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday during Ford Fan Day. It runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sparta facility.
People can take tours of the track, walk the 1.5 mile oval, have their picture taken in Victory Lane and see fire and safety team demonstrations.
However, it's the $10 million in improvements on the hillsides and roads outside the racing surface that speedway officials hope will make the biggest impression.
"It's all come to fruition and you can see it," said Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger. "You can actually come out and touch it."
The changes were made because of massive traffic and parking problems during last summer's inaugural "Quaker State 400" Sprint Cup race.
Traffic backed up for miles on Interstate 71 because the roads around the track were clogged with vehicles that had no place to park. There weren't enough spaces available.
It's estimated that as many as 14,000 fans didn't get to see all or part of the race and track officials vowed that would never happen again.
"I think fans are going to be thrilled when they come out and see it," said Simendinger. "We're just following through with what we said we were going to do."
The "to-do" list was long, complicated and expensive.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky spent $3.6 million to add a new lane to the exit ramp from southbound I-71 to Kentucky Route 35, widen Route 35 from I-71 past the track and build a pedestrian tunnel underneath the roadway.
The tunnel provides safe access to the track from 143 acres of new parking that can accommodate 18,000 vehicles.
Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) invested $7.5 million to buy the land, level it, plus haul, dump, spread and compact gravel to handle the weight of traffic.
Simendinger said the first thing most fans have said after seeing the changes is, "Wow!"
"I think the size of it impresses people. It's so visual," he said. "When they see how much we've done, I think they probably start doing a few dollar signs in their head and say, "Wow. These guys are serious about getting this thing right."
After the 2011 "Quaker State 400," spectators used social media to let track officials know what they thought the traffic and parking issues. Now, the track is responding in kind to communicate information about the changes that have been made.
"We're letting them know -- these are the things that we are doing. This is the progress we're making," said Simendinger. "It helps on a going forward basis."
Another thing the track has done is hire a firm to conduct computerized models of race day traffic scenarios. The simulations have been run eight or nine times.
"I know we're going to be better," Simendinger said. "When you know that you're going to do better, you're anxious, you want it to come and you want to provide that to everybody else."
Saturdays Ford Fan Day schedule is:
* 11:00 a.m. - Fan Day begins
U.S. Legends International racing begins on a quarter-mile track
* 11:15 a.m. - Walking and riding tours
* 11:30 a.m. - "Ask the GM" session in the Press Box
* 12:00 p.m. - U.S. Legends International racing two-hour intermission
Walking tours of the 1.5 mile oval begin
* 12:30 a.m. - "KOI Auto Parts Racing Report" media forum in the press fox
Fire and Safety team "crash demo"
* 1:00 p.m. - Fire and Safety team "crash demo"
* 1:30 p.m. - "Ask the GM" session in the press box
Fire and Safety team "crash demo"
* 2:00 p.m. - Walking tours of the 1.5 mile oval conclude
U.S. Legends International racing resumes
* 2:30 p.m. - "KOI Auto Parts Racing Report" media forum in the press box
* 3:30 p.m. - Last shuttle departs from the concourse and infield
* 4:00 p.m. - Fan Day concludes
The Kentucky Speedway racing schedule for 2012 is:
* June 28 - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series "UNOH 225"
* June 29 - NASCAR Nationwide Series "Feed The Children 300"
* June 30 - NASCAR Sprint Cup "Quaker State 400"
* September 21 - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series "Kentucky 201"
* September 22 - NASCAR Nationwide Series "Kentucky 300"
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