NASCAR president Mike Helton addressed the major traffic issues experienced by many fans last weekend at Kentucky Speedway in a Friday morning news conference at New Hampshire International Speedway, pledging to fix the problem.
Helton said the sanctioning body was "very pleased and excited about the overall support of the fans" at last weekend's race adding, "It was impressive. Don't want that to get overshadowed."
However the traffic issues have overshadowed the event throughout the week and NASCAR has been quick to meet with Kentucky Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Inc.
"The intent is to find out exactly what happened so that a cure or fix can be determined," Helton said. "We will not rest until we have figured that out."
"It was very unfortunate that it happened," he added. "We're sorry for the fans that were touched by that unfortunate episode. We will not let this fall to the wayside until we get resolution to it."
Here are some of the highlights of Helton's press conference Friday morning:
How involved in NASCAR in ensuring things run smoothly at a track?
NASCAR is unique to other sports in that the NASCAR model works by the independent relationships between NASCAR as a sanctioning body, the tracks as the hosts of the events, and the teams and drivers being the competitors. We all work together to put the events and the season on. There's responsibility in each group's world that needs to happen correctly to make the events go smoothly.
There was a lot of planning that was exhibited to us and to fans. I know on one trip up there myself, in the lobby of the office complex, there was material there that showed very well thought out, very nice, presentable piece, full color page of the traffic ingress, and then there was another page of traffic egress that was, according to the track folks, being mailed to the ticket buyers and was available to everybody to pick up.
I think part of what we want to know now is, was that plan followed correctly or what might have interfered with the preparation that went into the event that caused what happened.
Will Kentucky Speedway host a Sprint Cup race in 2012?
I don't want to speculate on that type of thing. I can't help but think, you look at the history of our sport, we've had issues that happen, and we generally figure out how to work through them.
I think what we're after right now is to figure out what happened in Sparta and figure out what the cure is for it. Outside of that, I don't have an opinion at this point. But we're working toward a resolution.
How involved is NASCAR in ensuring the fan experience at tracks?
I know that we all work on a common goal of making the experience for race fans and the appealing part of what we do for race fans paramount.
Along the way, we have hiccups. But then we need to collectively get together and figure it out so we can press on.
Did Kentucky Speedway's traffic issues hurt NASCAR's forward momentum?
Well, I'd like to think that we overcome the glitch in Kentucky and that what happened on the racetrack in Kentucky, the teams and the drivers delivered on their end, and they will this weekend. So we go on.
We certainly take what happened on the highways trying to get into Kentucky as a very serious issue that we intend to correct. But I think what's happening on the racetrack helps us maintain that momentum that you speak of.
Throughout the press conference, Helton also addressed the wild card spot in the chase and handling the off-track issues of NASCAR drivers.
Is NASCAR happy with the decision to add the wild card element to the Chase?
I think we like what we see. I think we like the energy or emphasis around what the wild card has placed on winning, and the caveat that winning races may apply when it gets closer to setting the Chase because of the wild card factor. I think that's all developing into an interesting story.
Will NASCAR get involved in off-track legal issues facing Kyle Busch and Michael Annett?
I would say that we'll have to watch and see how things unfold and see if it does translate into what we do.
But I'd also remind everybody, I think it's important for NASCAR to recognize its authority as a sports sanctioning body. We're not a local or state vehicular regulatory body. We're a sports league sanctioning body.
Now, I'm not saying that those two wouldn't ever overlap. But I think what we try to do is be very respectful of the fact that our realm is regulating ‑ our realm of responsibility ‑ NASCAR as a sport and letting the proper jurisdictions regulate everything outside the sport.
On occasion they overlap, but it's rare. On occasion they could overlap, and that's when we would have to consider what we have to do.