Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kentucky has 'Carmageddon'

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1 Like sharks circling blood in the water, several NASCAR tracks are taking advantage of the fiasco that developed Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.
This weekend's "Carmageddon" on the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles will look like a picnic compared to the events that unfolded for the inaugural Sprint Cup race at the Sparta facility. There are reports that as many as 10,000 ticket holders never made it to the track, and that a similar number arrived in time just to see a few laps.
But then, what would one expect when dealing with mostly two-lane roads (they did add a third lane on the interstate near the track for a short stretch)? Track owner Speedway Motorsports Inc. just didn't do its due diligence.
It was reminiscent of the situation that developed when Texas Motor Speedway, another SMI property, opened in 1997. There were so many helicopters employed to transport fans that those of us on the ground thought a Vietnam War movie was being filmed.
In an effort to make good on the bad situation, SMI is offering to exchange an unused Kentucky ticket for a ticket to upcoming Cup races at Bristol (Aug. 27), Atlanta (Sept. 4), New Hampshire (Sept. 25), Charlotte (Oct. 15), Texas (Nov. 6) or next year's Kentucky race.
It's much like Las Vegas Motor Speedway president Chris Powell did for the fans who were unable to use their Super Bowl tickets earlier this year, but one such promotion will lead to another, this time with SMI in the cross hairs.
Roger Curtis, Michigan International Speedway president, figures it's probably easier and faster to travel north to the Irish Hills for the Aug. 21 race than to sit in traffic for hours.
In an email, Curtis outlined the Kentucky problems before ending with, "We won't undercut our loyal customers with a knee-jerk ticket offer to make up for what happened on Saturday. 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."
Talladega Superspeedway president Grant Lynch also got into the act, sending out a release saying, "After hearing how fans had it at Kentucky this weekend, I wanted to let them know that we're ready to show how a race weekend (Oct. 23) is supposed to be run."
Michigan and Talladega are owned by International Speedway Corp., SMI's main NASCAR rival. ISC also owns Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
2 At one time in college football, Miami of Ohio was known as the "cradle of coaches" for the number of head coaches from the school who later advanced to larger schools.
Similar might be said for Auto Club Speedway, the "cradle of presidents."
With the recent naming of Dennis Bickmeier as president of Richmond International Raceway, he became the fifth ex-ACS employee to attain such a spot.
The 44-year-old Bickmeier, who started at the Fontana track in 1997 as a volunteer press aide for Jay Lucas, joins Craig Rust (Nazareth, Watkins Glen, Chicagoland), Roger Curtis (Michigan), Bill Miller (California Speedway) and Michael Printup (Watkins Glen) in the select group.
While at the Fontana facility, Bickmeier was public relations director (1999) and senior director of communications (2004) before joining Curtis at Michigan in 2007. At MIS, Bickmeier was responsible for communications, corporate partnership sales, and ticket sales and operations.
He'll need all those skills immediately at Richmond: It's been reported that Crown Royal, sponsor of the spring NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Virginia, is on the verge of a giant entitlement deal with Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 2012 Brickyard 400.
"Dennis is a well-respected sports management executive having spent his career working within motorsports as well as with other professional sport leagues," ISC president John Saunders said in making the announcement. "His proven management and leadership skills will facilitate a smooth transition from Michigan to Richmond."

3 Two pointed opinions about NASCAR:
The sanctioning body should shoulder some of the responsibility for the Kentucky traffic jam. It couldn't have, or at least shouldn't have, been a surprise that the roadways were ill- equipped to handle such a crowd.
In an era when ticket sales are falling faster than Jeff Burton's title chances, neither NASCAR nor its track operators can afford to leave such a sour taste in their fans' mouths.
The sanctioning body has long maintained that Saturday-night racing at local short tracks was its future, but how does that square with more Sprint Cup races on Saturday nights?
Do television ratings trump future drivers, fans and promoters?
Furthermore, the decision to leave Indianapolis Raceway Park in the Nationwide Series for Indianapolis also sends a mixed message. Yes, the series gets better exposure, but what about short- track racing? Will Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond carry the banner?
Remember what happened to the truck series: it started on short tracks across the nation, developed its reputation for bangin' and beatin', but no longer visits those short tracks.

4 Much of the credit for the IndyCar Series returning to Auto Club Speedway belongs to track president Gillian Zucker, who was bound and determined to replace the Sprint Cup date awarded to Kansas.
IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard, in a national teleconference after the race was announced, said, "Gillian and her team have been outstanding to work with, very aggressive on wanting this event."
Zucker was even able to joke about her two-year campaign to add the open-wheel race.
"Well, I think Randy can attest to the fact that we wouldn't leave him alone," she said on the call. "I think he had a choice of taking out a restraining order or granting a race here.
"We're thrilled he opted to grant the race here."
Zucker, who started talks with former IndyCar Series boss Tony George before Bernard was named his replacement, said her track is ideally suited for the series.
"It's not just about our staff being excited about it, wanting to round out the schedule for the community, provide the economic impacts that this type of event can bring. It's also just about how exciting this racing is and providing something that's truly dynamic that fans could enjoy," she said. "We couldn't be more thrilled to have open-wheel racing back at Auto Club Speedway."

5 Clearing out the local notebook:
Leave it to the folks at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale to take advantage of "Carmaggedon" this weekend: Mention the 405 Freeway at the ticket window in Irwindale and get a second adult general-admission ticket for each one purchased.
The half-mile oval will feature NASCAR stock car racing including Late Models, Legends, Mini Stocks, Super Trucks and Figure 8s. The on-track autograph session starts at 5:45 p.m.
Super Late Models, Late Models, Super Stocks, Pony Stocks, Factory Fours, Legends Cars and Bandoleros are part of the racing card, while Led Zepagain will provide the music as the California Speed Jams stock car and concert series resumes Saturday at Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino.
Racing is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. and the concert at 8:30.
Of special note is the Super Late Model points race, with Mark Shackleford and John Manke tied for first, two points ahead of Matt Hicks.
Tickets for the 2011 Izod IndyCar Series finale Oct. 16 in Las Vegas are now on sale, and those fans who bought a ticket for any of the series races this season are eligible for a free ticket to the race.


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