July 10, 2013 — Hardcore NASCAR fans in Kentucky clamored for their own Sprint Cup race, the circuit’s top level of competition, for years before the Quaker State 400 found its home at Kentucky Speedway at Sparta in Northern Kentucky.
But those same fans today may be feeling differently after three straight years of natural or manmade disasters at the race.
In the 2011 Quaker State 400, lack of sufficient parking and a confusing road network between the speedway and the freeway meant many of the 107,000 fans with tickets never saw a single lap of the race.
The track’s owners and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spent millions of dollars to correct those problems before the 2012 race.
Lo and behold, it turned out to be Kentucky’s hottest summer in decades and the heat made life unbearable for drivers, pit crews and the fans in the stands.
Along came the 2013 race and Mother Nature responded with three days of monsoon rains that shortened the Friday night Nationwide race and then forced postponement of the Sprint Cup race from Saturday to Sunday.
By the time the big race finally started on Sunday, the empty seats told a sad story. Rain, mud and three years of frustration had sent thousands of fans scurrying for home.
An important part of this story is that the Quaker State 400 has been an exciting race to watch each year it’s been held in Kentucky.
When NASCAR announced it would make Kentucky Speedway a Sprint Cup venue, the news was hailed from Paducah to Pikeville.
No more would NASCAR fans be forced to drive for hours to another part of the country to see their heroes in action.
It was said at the time that adding NASCAR to the Kentucky Derby would make us the horsepower capital of the world.
With 107,000 seats, the sport’s top drivers and a national TV audience, the Quaker State 400 has the potential of becoming another signature sports event for Kentucky, an incredible image builder for a state without professional team sports like football, basketball and baseball.
Kentucky Speedway is owned by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., a company that also owns seven other NASCAR tracks.
It was this company’s clout with NASCAR and a vision of success that convinced the racing elite to bring the Sprint Cup to Kentucky.
Now it is up to NASCAR fans in this state to show up at the 2014 Quaker State 400 and prove that Kentucky does belong in the big leagues.