SPARTA, Ky. - Work continues at a feverish pace outside Kentucky Speedway at Sparta to add parking capacity and improve traffic flow in and out of the Gallatin County track.
Steve Swift, the Speedway's Vice-President of Operations and Development, said the work will be done well before this year's Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race on June 30.
The changes being made are due to major gridlock and parking problems for the 2011 race that prevented many fans with tickets from getting to the track and into their seats.
Traffic was backed up on I-71 well after the race began and there wasn't enough room to park all the vehicles that converged on the area.
Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) President Bruton Smith promised fans the problems would be fixed.
"He is very, very dedicated to making sure that that does not happen again and that they'll have a great experience coming in 2012," said Swift, who is also Senior Construction Manager for SMI.
SMI is spending $7 million to transform 160 acres of land directly across from the track into new parking spaces. That's expected to double the parking capacity to nearly 35,000 vehicles.
Swift said the new lots are scheduled to be finished in mid-May.
Kentucky is investing $3.7 million to improve the roads around the track.
- A new lane is being added to the exit ramp from southbound I-71 to Kentucky Route 35
- Kentucky Route 35 is being widened so more vehicles can leave the interstate more quickly
"It will help create free flow into the parking lots," said Swift. "With what we had before, we were having to stop cars to get them to turn in here or turn in there."
"With the property now on both sides of the street to park cars, we can free flow the cars in the parking areas and then sort them as they get into the lots," he added.
The state contractor must finish work by May 1 or face stiff financial penalties. In addition, a 42-foot tunnel is being constructed under Kentucky Route 35 to safely connect the new parking lots to the Speedway grounds.
Kentucky Speedway tram service will be enhanced by a new overpass to the infield tunnel road, which will separate tram and infield traffic.
"It's a great place to see a race," said Speedway spokesperson Mike Schmaltz. "I think fans are willing to come back and see the progress that we've made."
Schmaltz said ticket sales are going well for the 2012 season, which includes these events:
- June 28 – NASCAR Camping World Truck Series "UNOH 225"
- June 29 – NASCAR Nationwide Series "Feed the Children 500"
- June 30 – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series "Quaker State 400"
- Sept. 21 - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series "Kentucky 225"
- Sept. 22 – NASCAR Nationwide Series "Kentucky 300"
Members of the national media will get an update on the changes Wednesday during the annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour.
After the 2011 problems, many outlets called for NASCAR to skip Kentucky Speedway for a year until changes were made.
Instead, Smith stepped in and immediately addressed the concerns.