Archive for Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Speedway season revs up Saturday

Highway patrolman offers tips for dealing with traffic congestion on race days

June 28, 2006

Start those engines, race fans.

The Kansas Speedway racing season opens Friday with the O'Reilly qualifying day.

On Saturday, the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 race begins at 2:15 p.m., with the Kansas Lottery $200 Grand to start about 4:45 p.m. Both races are part of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

The Kansas Lottery Indy 300 will be Sunday. That race begins at noon and will be televised on ABC.

The summer season concludes in the fall with the Yellow Transportation 300 and the Banquet 400. The Yellow Transportation race is a Busch Series event, while the Banquet 400 is a Nextel event.

Sammie Lukaskiewicz, senior manager of public relations, said season tickets still are available for the 2006 season, which marks the sixth year at Kansas Speedway.

"Obviously we want to sell out," Lukaskiewicz said. "We're still successful regardless of how many tickets we sell.

"Any year we have a good event is considered a good season."

The speedway currently holds 82,000 fans, but track officials hope to expand in the future.

"We hope to eventually expand to 150,000," Lukaskiewicz said. "We always said we don't want to exceed demands. We never want to see empty seats.

"We'll grow as demand grows."

Demand is highest each year at Kansas Speedway for the NASCAR Nextel Series race, which will be the Banquet 400 on Oct. 1.

The race is part of the "Chase for the Nextel Cup," which includes the final 10 races of the NASCAR season. The Kansas City, Kan., race is the third of the final leg of the Nextel Series. The final race will be the Ford 400 on Nov. 19 at Miami Speedway.

Keeping an eye on traffic

When race fans converge on Kansas Speedway, they help make the racing events some of the largest attended sporting events in the state.

However, with that attendance comes increased traffic in the area.

To handle traffic, a private parking control company, as well as the Kansas Highway Patrol and the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, regulate traffic at speedway events.

For area fans heading to the track, Lukaskiewicz said she urges race fans to come early.

She said that before a race, traffic usually is highest between 8 a.m. and noon, so Lukaskiewicz encourages fans to arrive between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. Fans can tailgate before grandstand gates open at 8 a.m., she said.

As for residents who might be traveling through the area on a race day -- especially the Banquet 400 race on Oct. 1 -- Lt. Dave Porter with the Kansas Highway Patrol asked drivers to consider taking an alternate route and bypass the speedway area.

"We'll get you through, but what normally takes you 20 minutes could take two hours," Porter said.

With the Banquet 400 race, traffic during the race typically isn't as congested because fans are at the race and most won't leave until it's finished. With Saturday's events, though, traffic could fluctuate throughout the day because there are two races, so fans could be coming and going for each race. Porter, however, said traffic for those races still didn't compare to the Banquet 400 crowd.

The KHP and KCK police have command posts throughout the race area, which monitor various traffic points with cameras. Through the use of the cameras, officials can alter how they direct traffic to better move vehicles toward or away from Kansas Speedway.

Porter also urged drivers to pay attention to digital message boards that are set up along the roads. The messages are changed throughout the day, Porter said.

"My best advice, I would find an alternate route and avoid (highways) 24 and K-7," Porter said.

That can be a difficult task for drivers traveling from Lansing, Basehor, Tonganoxie and Bonner Springs, but Porter said that taking an alternate route can take less time, even if the distance is longer.

"We encourage the public to use the main exits," Porter said. "K-7 just cannot handle the volume as well as the major interstates."

If drivers who are not attending the race do plan to travel through the area, Potter said they should keep tabs on how the race is progressing, either by Internet or television, to beat the traffic. It's hard to pinpoint how long a race will last, Potter said.

And if residents plan to visit the Village West shopping area, which is north of the speedway, Potter said citizens might want to pick a different day, especially on Oct. 1.

"I wouldn't plan on going shopping at Village West that day," Potter said. "It will be busy."

Although traffic can become a nightmare on race days, Potter said the configuration around Kansas Speedway has earned praise from people who attend races across the nation.

"From a national standpoint we've got feedback from people who go to races," Potter said. "Feedback we've got is we have the best setup in the nation as far as getting people in and out of the speedway."

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