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Since its announcement last August, it has been well known in the area that the Kentucky Speedway in Gallatin County will be hosting its first-ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race July 9. What effect it will have on its neighboring county from the southwest, however, has been up for debate.
More than 100 people crammed into the old county courtroom Thursday for a “Coffee and Conversation,” sponsored by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce’s Sprint Cup committee, at which three members of the Kentucky Speedway leadership team provided their insight into the event and answered questions and concerns from the audience.
“This is an opportunity here in the county for our citizens and business owners and organizations to really see the economic impact on this community, and we need to be ready for it,” Chamber president Mark Smith said.
While the official race times have not been confirmed by NASCAR for television purposes, Director of Operations Mike Claywell said he did not anticipate them changing much more. The projected start times are 8:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and the gates will open in the early afternoon around 2 p.m.
Jesse Harris with sales and marketing at the speedway said ticket sales for the event opened Jan. 12 to “an incredible response.” The Sprint Cup race is on pace to sell out, and he also projected Thursday night’s Camping World Truck Series race would sell more than 30,000 tickets, while Friday’s Nationwide Series race would sell 40-50,000 tickets. The fact that the race follows Fourth of July weekend has also helped increase its projected numbers. Claywell said the speedway’s camping area expanded from 1,000 spots to 3,000 for an estimated 12,000 people. There are fewer than 1,000 spots available for general camping. If general camping spots are available, the speedway will open July 1. If all of the camping is reserved only, it will not open until July 5.
“Traffic is the number one problem we’re going to encounter on Saturday,” Claywell said. However, he did not foresee it to be a big issue on Thursday or Friday. Claywell said he will be meeting March 9 with representatives from other tracks to find out how they have handled the traffic situation. The Kentucky State Police, the state Transportation Cabinet and the speedway’s sign makers will also be involved in the meeting.
Claywell said the current plan is to use more of the two-lane roads and less of the Interstate. He said he and the Transportation Department will be working to message the semi trucks, asking them to use alternate routes during this time.
“We have all day to get there. People start coming at 8 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “When the checkered flag falls, everybody wants to leave, and to expedite that, we try to run every lane of traffic away from that race track. So if you’re not there prior to the end of the race, you’re not gonna get in, and I don’t see that changing.”
For the NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Claywell said it took under two hours to get the 60-70,000 people in attendance out of the area. The Sprint Cup will add an estimated 40,000 more people and about 20,000 more cars. He hopes to have everyone out of the area in three hours.
An audience member asked Claywell if there would be a lane of traffic running down toward Warsaw on state Hwy. 35. He said he believes there will be and that there will probably be a complete parking lot going in that direction. Claywell said driving state Hwy. 35 to Warsaw, up to U.S. 42 and out to I-75 is 3 miles closer than the I-71.
“I grant it you can drive 75-80 miles per hour on the Interstate; you can’t do that on (U.S.) 42. But mileage-wise, it’s shorter, and signage is going to help us,” he said. “We are going to put (up) signage every five miles. The worst thing (is) somebody traveling a road that they’ve never been on and it seems like it takes forever. If every five miles we can give them a sign that says ‘You’re still going the right way.’ The worst thing we can have is for them to get discouraged and turn around and come back and now we have traffic coming from the wrong direction right into our traffic problem.”
In addition to vehicle traffic, those in attendance also wanted to know about what Carrollton and Carroll County could expect by way of foot traffic. Harris told the audience to pretend they were camping or on vacation and the kinds of things they would want to do in their spare time. Since the races are scheduled for the evenings, mornings and early afternoons are good times to attract visitors to town.
Harris said he thought it would be a great idea if tourism or chamber spearheaded a bus or shuttle service to take visitors to and from the track, with stops around Carrollton in between. He said this idea has been discussed at some of the committee meetings. “All I can say is be yourself,” Harris said. “Welcome these [fans] as your old friends, and I think that will sort of set a standard for us because all eyes are on the Kentucky Speedway this year.”
Jobs available at the Kentucky Speedway on race weekend
Event staff and human resources director Debbie Shipp said applications for temporary employment on race weekend can be sent to her office, and if she has too many employees, she will forward the information on to other contractors.
Because of the size of this event, she will be using more groups than ever before. Workers must be at least 18 years old, and groups should include at least 20 people. Workers will be paid $8 an hour per employee, and the group will be issued one check for the total amount. Examples of group jobs include ushers, ticket takers, VIP check-in personnel and gate personnel checking credentials. If passed on to another contractor, employees may be working in food booths or sweeping up trash.
Shipp said teachers and local Rotary Club members make good tour guides because they are used to talking in front of groups. Claywell also said security contractor, Brantley, is always looking for people to park cars.
While it is a tough job being outside all day, employees will be done working at the beginning, giving them time to watch the race. Shipp said she has a few sitting jobs and a few in the shade, but they are rare.
“If anybody wants to work at the track, they have to be able to stand for long periods of time, they have to be able to endure heat, sun, bees, flies, mosquitoes, I mean you name it,” Shipp said. “It’s a hard job, and if you’ve been there before and it’s 90 degrees here, you know it’s going to be 95 to 100 there. You can just see the heat coming off the asphalt.”
For more information on jobs for nonprofit organizations and individuals, contact Shipp’s office at (859) 647-4309 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Quaker State named sponsor of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race
Quaker State announced Sunday it will be the title sponsor of the first ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at the Kentucky Speedway. The Quaker State 400 will be held at the first new track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule since 2001.
“The entire Quaker State team is very excited to be a part of this historic moment for NASCAR and Kentucky Speedway,” said Chris Hayek, Quaker State Global Brand Manager. “We are very happy to be involved with what is sure to be a great race.”
Mark Martin, who is a 29-year Sprint Cup Series veteran, will pilot the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet during the historic weekend.
“I think it’s great that NASCAR continues to expand the tracks we race, and I am very proud to not only have Quaker State technology under the hood, but also the Quaker State logo on the hood of our car for the inaugural race at Kentucky Speedway,” said Martin. “I’m looking forward to, hopefully, piloting the No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet to Victory Lane.”