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Off-track traffic overshadows Busch victory

The biggest drama of the the inaugural Cup race at Kentucky turned out to be traffic off-track rather than on it, as Kyle Busch cruised to the green flag for two wins out of three for the weekend.
You know that a race hasn't been the most exciting of affairs when all the next-day headlines are about the traffic getting to Kentucky Speedway rather than the cars going 175 mph on it in the Quaker State 400 race itself.

It was the inaugural Cup race at the venue, and in order to win the contract to add a Cup race to its existing Truck and Nationwide Series line-up the facility had needed to expand from its previous 66,000 capacity to something more in the region of 107,000 - and it achieved this rather magnificently, it has to be said.

Unfortunately what no one seemed to have thought through was the impact on the surrounding infrastructure in the city of Sparta where the Speedway is located, and the traffic backlogs started hours before the Saturday night race was scheduled to start. Not only was a normal 30-60 minute drive taking the better part of five hours, some fans never made it at all - and many who did arrived too late for the start, only to be told there was no parking left anywhere in the area after the track organised some 33,000 parking spots that proved to be woefully inadequate. One of the fans who was caught out was the president of the state senate, who said afterwards that he would convene an official enquiry into what had happened; the fact that he's rumoured to be lined up to run for state governor is surely purely coincidental.

The whole debacle was a serious embarrassment for all concerned, with both the track management and NASCAR itself moved to apologise to fans. "While NASCAR was thrilled by the incredible response to our inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Kentucky, we also are extremely disappointed by the traffic problems and inconveniences endured by fans who wanted to be part of our races," said NASCAR chairman Brian France on Monday. "This situation cannot happen again."

The controversy even caught up the Cup drivers themselves, with Ryan Newman hoping that fans would give them a chance to put things right next year and Denny Hamlin finding himself gridlocked on the way in with everyone else: "Bad news is I'm prolly not going to make the drivers meeting in 3 hours because I'm in this traffic with everyone else," he tweeted from his stationary car. "Good news, I'm starting in the back anyway [because of an engine change.]"

The fact that the traffic situation hogged all the headlines after the race does rather confirm that the race itself was the closest thing you'll see to a "routine dull day at the office" as you'll get in motorsport. The drivers all worked hard, but there was little to show for it at the end of the night.

Going into the race all the talk had been about the track condition. The track management's focus up till then had been on expanding capacity, but now raceday loomed it was clear that the Speedway surface itself was in a less than optimal situation with the drivers worried about all the bumps in the surface: Jeff Gordon spoke of tracks that "just absolutely have to be repaved - this one would be one of them. It is very rough here." And sure enough, the track management have said that they will look into a complete repaving of the circuit in the next year or so.

Drivers didn't think that the bumps would have a great effect for the Cup race itself, but were worried about the impact on qualifying - so it was rather ironic that the qualifying session was aborted midway through because of rain showers and we never got to see that play out, or else we might have got a more interesting mixed up grid for the Quaker State 400 than we did.

Kyle Busch inherited pole position as a result based on earlier practice session times. Busch had Nationwide and Truck experience at Kentucky and so wasn't phased at all by the prospect of the first new Cup venue on the calendar in ten years, and indeed most of the big names like Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson were similarly familiar with the Speedway in some car or other. Carl Edwards had even taken his first national-level carrer victory here in Trucks, while Joey Logano was particularly expected to build on recent momentum given that he had been the winner of the last three years of Nationwide races - although he could finish only tenth this year in a race won by Brad Keselowski.




Related Pictures

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Kyle Busch celebrates winning the Quaker State 400 with a burnout at Kentucky Speedway. [Picture Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images for NASCAR]
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Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 3, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet SS, captures the flag with his victory Sunday, August 3, 2014 after winning Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, August 3, 2014 in Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 3, 2014 after winning Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 3, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 3, 2014 after winning Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane with a broom after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 3, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Michael Baker International Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway on August 3, 2014 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, celebrates with a burn out after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 Presented by New Holland at Iowa Speedway on August 2, 2014 in Newton, Iowa.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway on August 2, 2014 in Newton, Iowa. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

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