- Associated Press - Sunday, July 10, 2011

SPARTA, Ky. — Flashbulbs popped as pole sitter Kyle Busch led the 43-car Sprint Cup field to the green flag at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night to kick off the long-awaited debut by NASCAR’s top series at the 1.5-mile oval.

Yet the real story of the inaugural race at the track tucked among the hills in northern Kentucky was unfolding over the wall behind Turns 3 and 4 as Busch roared to the start/finish line.

Cars, many of them stuck in gridlock for hours on nearby Interstate 71, continued to inch along the overstuffed access roads. The maddening parade continued as the laps ticked off, with some fans eventually being asked to turn around after the race passed its halfway point so the track could start allowing those that did manage to make it in to leave.

Though more than 100,000 packed the revitalized grandstand, the race will be remembered more for the sea of brakelights along the interstate than for Busch’s third win of the season.a

Even the drivers weren’t spared. Denny Hamlin worried he would miss the prerace driver’s meeting after being parked for several hours on overmatched I-71.

“It’s back to reality to see the other side of things,” said Hamlin, who did make the meeting and finished 11th. “Some guys around us had some problems. It’s tough. Bruton and all those guys know it’s an issue. …You’ve got a lot of fans that want to watch the race, but you can’t do anything about a two-lane road.”

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