Mark Story: Plenty of bumps on Kentucky Speedway's debut

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJuly 11, 2011 

Quick hitters from the Sparta traffic jam:

21. Kentucky Speedway traffic: In 2000, for the first major event at the then-brand-new racetrack, some 63,000 people showed up, it rained furiously, and traffic got backed way up way out on I-71.

20. Déjà vu: Amidst the massive traffic snarls outside the Quaker State 400 on Saturday night, I kept thinking back to that first night when former owner Jerry Carroll's track opened.

19. Mark Simendinger: The Kentucky Speedway general manager was having such thoughts, too. "I was, I really was," he said after Saturday's race. "I was like, you've got to be kidding me. It was kind of ironic."

18. Jerry Carroll: As he said he would, the former Speedway owner did attend the Cup race.

17. Kyle's Kentucky quad: Having won the truck race and the Cup event in Sparta last weekend, Kyle Busch has won in four different series at Kentucky Speedway. He won in the Nationwide Series in 2004 and an ARCA race in 2003.

16. Big night for Toyota: With Busch winning the Cup race and David Reutimann second, it meant Camrys ran 1-2 in the debut Sprint Cup event in Sparta. "A car built right here in Kentucky," Busch said.

15. Quality of racing: I thought the first part of the Quaker State 400 was fairly pedestrian, with Busch dominating much of it and in danger of checking out on the field.

14. Second was half better: The action improved, however. The threewide battle for the lead among Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart and Busch after a restart was about as entertaining as it gets.

13. Finish excellent: The last two-lap shootout for the win between Busch and Jimmie Johnson following a caution was also exciting.

12. Pro-Kentucky Speedway track surface: Keselowski says, "I like this track. You can run multiple grooves. You just can't run multiple grooves side-by-side. I think the track is more of a driver's track than I thought it would be coming in here. That's good."

11. Anti-Kentucky Speedway track surface: Jeff Gordon says, "I think when Bruton (Smith) is looking at how to get the traffic in here, he's going to have to look at the racetrack as well. It's rough. It's really hard to pass. The layout needs a little help; but the surface, most importantly, to give these fans what they really deserve."

10. Joe B. Hall: Heard fans chanting "Joe B." as the former Kentucky basketball coach walked up the Speedway stairs toward his seat.

9. Skip Holtz: The South Florida football head coach, who was at East Carolina when UK beat the Pirates to win the Liberty Bowl after the 2008 season, was also in Sparta for the race.

8. Mark Jacobs: The former Kentucky football player turned jackman for Juan Pablo Montoya said he saw his former UK teammate Dave Ginn at the race.

7. Family feud: History will record that the first pass for the lead in a Cup race at Kentucky Speedway was Kurt Busch passing his little brother, Kyle.

6. Bruton Smith: A billionaire mogul can pretty much say what he wants, but Smith should be aware that even many Kentuckians who don't care one whit about horse racing regard the Kentucky Derby as a symbol of the commonwealth.

5. Smith's Derby barbs: I've talked to Smith one-on-one for any extended time twice in my life, so I don't claim any great insight into his personality. But my guess is he directs barbs at Churchill Downs for allegedly inflating Derby Day attendance as a jab at one particular person.

4. Richard Duchossois: The longtime Arlington Park owner became a member of the board at Churchill Downs in 2000 when the two horse-track companies merged.

3. Investor in Kentucky Speedway: Duchossois was also a member of the original investor group that Carroll put together to build the Sparta racetrack.

2. Holding a grudge? After Smith bought the track, his plan to move a Cup date here was delayed because the old ownership group was appealing the dismissal of its anti-trust suit against NASCAR. The stock-car sanctioning body said no Cup date until the suit went away. Smith publicly fingered Duchossois as the person insisting on keeping the appeal alive.

1. Refunds: It would be very good public relations for Kentucky Speedway to refund the ticket cost of anyone who can prove they were turned away from entering the racetrack Saturday night due to the traffic snarl.

Sometimes, doing the right thing is also good business.

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