Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis has gone on record as saying he is ‘saddened and embarrassed’ by the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race weekend at Kentucky Speedway. He also took the track to the woodshed; admonishing the Speedway for the treatment of NASCAR fans.
After lobbying for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, the track was finally awarded a coveted date, after legal action was taken on behalf of the former owners and Speedway Motor Sports Incorporated which purchased the facility in 2008.
While the race on Saturday went off with-out a hitch, the traffic getting into and out of the venue was a disaster. Many fans were unable to park after sitting in traffic for hours and many ticket holders were turned away.
“What should have been a shining moment for the sport of NASCAR and all the racetracks, especially those in the Midwest, has sadly, potentially, put all of us back several steps – maybe even years,” Curtis said in a statement. “A sellout NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway should have signaled the continuation of great things for race fans in the Midwest and for our sport.
Unfortunately Saturday’ night’s events became an exercise in blame and unpreparedness – and race fans, corporate partners, media and drivers were caught in the middle.”
Curtis put the blame on the tracks management.
“As a track promoter I am saddened and embarrassed about what happened this weekend,” he said. “To think all the hard work that we’ve done here at Michigan International Speedway and other tracks have done could be so quickly erased by Saturday’s events. That speedway, having been open for racing since 2000, should have known the challenges it would face when it tripled in size.”
“Just to be clear: This isn’t about kicking a race track when it’s down,” Curtis added. “We all make mistakes and MIS has certainly had past issues with traffic.”
While he stressed that he wasn’t trying to sway future tickets buyers to come to Michigan, Curtis said what happened at Kentucky this past weekend is wrong as was the lack of response from the track itself.
“It’s about apologizing and doing what’s right when you are clearly in the wrong,” Curtis said. “It is about having your priorities right in the first place – on the fan experience.
That’s why I’m upset.”
Curtis also made reference to comments made by SMI CEO Bruton Smith who said Saturday that the main route into the Speedway, Interstate 71 and its poor condition was the cause of all the traffic problems.
“It is bad enough the racetrack went into the weekend knowing traffic was going to be worse than they had previously had with other series,” Curtis said. “But to think Bruton Smith made light of it with the media, and then pointed the finger at the State of Kentucky when posed with traffic questions is unfathomable.”
Michigan has its own history of heavy traffic, although not nearly as bad as the 22 mile backups seen in Kentucky Saturday. Curtis said that he and track officials work tirelessly with state lawmakers and local officials to ensure that traffic moves safely and efficiently. He also made reference to Smith’s comments over the weekend when he put the blame for all the traffic problems on the State of Kentucky.
Curtis said MIS works hard to “ensure an event at Michigan International Speedway is a true public-private partnership; and not a business threatening to hold its region hostage to meet our demands.”
“It appears the mentality at some other racetracks today is to see how much money they can make off a fan,” Curtis added. “Their line of thinking is to ban coolers, have fire sales on last-minute tickets, build, build, build without thinking, thinking, thinking, and blame others for their mistakes.
Don’t get me wrong: We are not perfect. But we listen to our fans, we recognize our shortcomings and we try to overcome them so race fans don’t feel the burden. Most importantly, we learn from them so those mistakes don’t happen again.”
Curtis expressed regret overt the incident.
“On behalf of the MIS staff, I apologize to all the race fans whose expectations were not met this weekend, but also to those who read all the stories and were taken back by the treatment other people received,” he said. “That is not how we do business at our racetrack – and it’s certainly not indicative of how every track operates. I hope fans recognize this and realize the vast majority in this great sport (not just tracks, but NASCAR officials, drivers and owners, as well) are working hard for the fans and do have their priorities right.
We do not take our guests for granted and we pledge to do everything we can every day to make your experience at MIS the best it can be.”
He then offered any NASCAR fan who felt slighted a discounted ticket to MIS.
“We won’t undercut our loyal customers with a knee-jerk ticket offer to make up for what happened on Saturday,” Curtis. “But we will match what our loyal customers received by offering any race fan who has not had their expectations met at any racetrack with our lowest ticket price of the season for seats in Turns 1 and 3. Send us your race ticket and you can purchase a reserved ticket for $45 for the August 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.”
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