Speedway Motorsports Inc. announced the acquisition of a 143-acre parcel of land that will be used to greatly expand Kentucky Speedway parking and the hiring of professional parking and engineering services to best manage automotive and pedestrian traffic flows during venue event days.

The first Cup race at Kentucky was a huge deal. But as David Caraviello writes, it's too bad so many people endured so much misery trying to see it.

Because of the actions taken by the speedway, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) pledged to improve surrounding highways to allow faster access to expanded parking areas.

"We learned meaningful lessons during our inaugural Sprint Cup Series race weekend and we committed that the traffic congestion that occurred on race day would not happen again," Mark Simendinger, Kentucky Speedway general manager said. "It was important for us to act quickly and I am thrilled to report this solution, which was formed in only seven short weeks. I compliment and thank SMI chairman and CEO Bruton Smith, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and KYTC Secretary Mike Hancock for working collaboratively on this plan."

The expansive parcel located east of the 107,000 capacity facility and state Highway 35 is expected to increase available event parking by 35 percent. The speedway will further improve its parking operation by reinforcing all areas with gravel and painting guidelines to help maximize available space.

Veteran's Security and Patrol Co., which has extensive experience managing parking during events at prominent motorsports venues such as Daytona International Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Watkins Glen International, will begin servicing the speedway in October. Kentucky Speedway will additionally retain the services of a traffic engineering company that will employ sophisticated modeling techniques to assimilate the new improvements with existing infrastructure to create the best possible traffic management plan.

SMI will invest an estimated $7.5 million in its service and parking improvements. The company has already begun engineering the newly-acquired land.

"Kentucky Speedway is a premier destination for the country's best racing, and it's clear that tens of thousands of people want to be right here to experience those events. The NASCAR race weekend this July was a huge success, but it did experience traffic problems, caused largely by inadequate parking," Governor Beshear said. "To assure visitors have an even better experience next year, we've worked hand in hand with SMI to plan improvements that will benefit fans on race day and Gallatin County residents year-round."

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) complemented the SMI commitments by approving several enhancements to existing infrastructure that will assist in moving traffic more quickly during future race events. Enhancements will:

-- Improve the Interstate 71 Exit 57 southbound ramp shoulder to allow three lanes of traffic to exit to KY 35 and directly access staggered speedway entrances during event days.

-- Improve nearly one mile of KY 35 from the I-71 interchange. Approximately 0.6 of a mile of KY 35 will be widened to five lanes with two full width shoulders to better service two primary speedway access roads and improve daily traffic flow to Warsaw.

-- Construct a tunnel beneath state KY 35 to safely and efficiently route pedestrian traffic to shuttles which transport fans to speedway gates.

The Cabinet will support the $3.6 million project with its contingency fund, and plans to present the project for bid by the end of 2011 to ensure work will be complete before the summer of 2012.

In a statement, NASCAR president Mike Helton said he was pleased with the planned improvements.

"NASCAR is pleased with the efforts announced [Tuesday] by Kentucky Speedway, Speedway Motorsports Inc. and the Commonwealth of Kentucky to address the traffic and parking issues faced by fans at their inaugural Sprint Cup Series race this year. We've been in close touch with the track and its management since July and the significant commitments announced [Tuesday] support the common goal of hosting the most successful events possible at Kentucky Speedway next season.

"We believe improvements like these are necessary in order to ensure that our fans have the opportunity for an enjoyable race experience. We appreciate these efforts and will continue to monitor the progress that is being made."