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Race Day: Cup Moves Into New Kentucky Home

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 9 2011

Bumps in the track at Kentucky track had some drivers calling for a repave before the first Sprint Cup race was even run. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Surface opinions surfaced this weekend in the garages at Kentucky Speedway, site of tonight’s Quaker State 400 Sprint Cup race. Opinions on the racing surface at Kentucky, which is hosting is first Sprint Cup race tonight, and opinions on the surface at Kansas Speedway.

The opinions were prompted by bumps in 10-year-old surface at Kentucky and the news that Kansas would reconstruct, reconfigure and repave its surface after next year’s spring Cup race.

The opinions ran that gamut.

Here is a sampling of what drivers had to say:

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch on Kentucky: “It’s definitely really bumpy.  We have to develop a package that will work around here and go through the bumps that will create our cars speed and still be able to maintain that speed, so it’s not easy.  It’s a balancing act for sure. Like last night, I felt like my truck was too rough. My Nationwide car is pretty good and my Cup car is pretty good. There are shock packages

Fast practices gave Kyle Busch the pole at Kentucky for tonight's race. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

you work on. Different things you do with the springs to try and help it out.  It’s a fine tune adjustment.  You just have to work on it.  From what I heard, they’re re-doing the infield here after this event and I certainly hope they are taking into consideration doing the race track.  I’m not sure what’s going on there, but it needs a good look at.”

Roush Fenway Racing driver Matt Kenseth on Kentucky: “Yeah, I think it bothers everybody. It is almost ridiculously rough, even on the front straightaway it is so rough that is kind of knocks you all over the place. It is pretty rough. It could use a coat of pavement.”

Hendrick Motorsports driver Jeff Gordon on Kentucky: “There are those tracks that I think are just…they absolutely have to be repaved. This one (Kentucky Speedway) would be one of them. It is very rough here. While I really like the surface, the roughness is kind of a must.”

Gordon on Kansas: “Kansas, to me, should not be re-paved. But it might be a foundation issue. It might be a drainage issue. There’s deeper stories behind the scenes that we maybe don’t know as competitors so they do what they need to do. I’m not a fan because the new pavement that exists out there is so smooth and is not very abrasive. Goodyear has a very difficult time building tires for the new re-paves because it just generates so much heat, but they don’t dissipate the heat by having abrasiveness. I just wish we could talk to the companies that are doing the paving and find a way to put some abrasiveness into…and a lot of it…is just in the aggregate.”

Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Kansas: “Yes, it does (need to be repaved). I don’t know what an alternative solutions would be, but every time

Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the garages at Kentucky. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

these tracks develop any kind of cracks in them and they put tar or strips on them, and that’s terrible, that is the worst thing you can do to a race track, that track’s got it all over the place and you can’t…the tires that they got don’t like them strips. People, think ‘ah, it’s cool go across the strip and it messes you up’. That adds to the action but it’s not good. It takes away from the racing. Something they did running across them strips at Kansas this past trip there, so maybe it is a lesson learned to those other tracks.”

Stewart-Haas Racing driver Ryan Newman on repaving in general: “My opinion, that line is if the owner/operator of that facility thinks the asphalt is going to come up. Is it going to cause a problem?  Is it going to affect the race like what we saw in Daytona?”

Fast facts

Race: The Quaker State 400

Length: 400 miles (267 laps)

Track: Kentucky Speedway

Location: Sparta, Kentucky

Configuration: 1.5-mile tri-oval

First race: This year’s is the inaugural Cup race

Banking: 15 degrees in corners

Seating capacity: 81,687

Tonight’s polesitter: Kyle Busch (based on practice as qualifying rained out)

Trivia time:

The first Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway was in 2001.  Three current Sprint Cup drivers finished 1-2-3 in that race.  Who are they?

Toss me the keys

According to Travis Geisler, director of competition, Penske Racing, the keys to winning

Kurt Busch of Penske Racing. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

at Kentucky tonight are:

Go Team – “Anytime that you come to a new race track, it presents a unique challenge.  You don’t have inaugural races very often and it’s something that hasn’t happened recently.  Having the test day yesterday, teams tried to develop a package that they’re going racing with. It was the ultimate test of teamwork and the strength of your race team.  As an engineering staff, we have to respond to what the drivers are telling us about their Dodge race cars and generate a setup.  Typically on a race weekend you only have about an hour to focus on what you have for a race setup.  This weekend, we had seven hours of practice and plenty of tires to try and get a feel for our race package.  Making use of that time better than the other teams in the garage is a key for tomorrow night’s race.”

Look out for the bumps – “Getting your car over the bumps will be key.  Guys aren’t complaining too much about them.  The speedway did a good job grinding the track.  But the bumps are big enough that it affects your race setup.  We have to try and do a better job getting our cars over them without scrubbing off too much speed.”

Turn 3 – “We need to get our Dodges more secure during entry into Turn 3.  If we can do that, it will allow us to free the car up a little better and do other things to the car for the track.  We’re at the limit of how much we can free the car up because of the entry in (turn) 3 right now.”

Earncon alert

Conditions for a Dale Earnhardt Jr. victory in tonight’s race at Kentucky stand at 2. Earnhardt was so-so in the three practice sessions at Kentucky. He was top 10 in the first but couldn’t crack the top 20 in the second and  third.  He has three victories at 1.5-mile tracks – they came at Chicagoland, Atlanta and Texas.

Trivia answer

Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Tony Raines.

Tracking more opinions

The Kentucky track also took some criticism for a lack of SAFER barrieres on some of its concrete

Jeff Gordon would like a SAFER Kentucky. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

walls.

Gordon on that: “I was just making a comment after last week’s announcement by Richmond (International Raceway). ‘I wonder what other tracks don’t have SAFER Barriers.’ Then I came here and saw the inside wall. Hopefully that is the only time I notice it this weekend. You understand that they have put a lot of effort, you can tell they’ve put a lot of time and money and effort into getting this race track ready. Hopefully it’s not an issue. We’ll see.”

Road wary

There has been a lot of talk making the rounds about adding a road race to the Chase. Driver Matt Kenseth has an opinion on the exact number of road races which should be on the schedule.

“I think zero road courses would be a great number, but that is just me,” Kenseth said. “I will say that after the introduction of double-file restarts maybe all the drivers don’t really dig it as much because it is crazy but it is fun to watch. The restarts are just crazy running side-by-side at places where with the way road course etiquette was before five years ago, you would never dream of running side-by-side. It has made it an exciting race to watch for the fans.”

Up next

The Lennox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Juan Pablo Montoya won the pole and Jimmie Johnson won the race a year ago.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 9 2011
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