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Hot Stuff In Store For Teams, Drivers, Fans

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 30 2012

Kyle Busch won the inaugural Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

One of these years, Sprint Cup racing at Kentucky will be about engines and horsepower and going fast and strategy. Just not this year.

This year, a year after the traffic and parking lots were the big story at Kentucky Speedway, heat has become the big topic. Heat that is expected to be in triple digits when tonight’s Quaker State 400 goes green.

How hot is it? So hot that wheel changers will be using pot holders. But seriously folks, so hot that an excessive that heat warning will be in effect when the race starts.

Drivers were asked about the heat and coping with it this weekend and what follows is what a select group had to say:

Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, when asked about coping with the heat: “I think it is going to be hot no matter what. It might cool down slightly but it’s going to be hot and it’s going to be slick. So we have been to places like this before where the track changes a lot when it cools down at night but here it was 90 degrees last night at 9:30. I think it is going to change things slightly but not as drastically as what you would think.”

Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, when asked if the heat was bothering him in practice: “Not right now but it would be tough racing in this. We know we have to in a couple weeks at

Greg Biffle is expecting things to heat up. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

Indy but it just makes the cars slip and slide around a lot when it is this hot. It will be a lot better racing tomorrow night.”

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, when asked what the heat is affecting: “It is affecting everything. It is hot, incredibly hot and I can’t remember the last time it was this hot. It is plenty warm and our car has been slipping and sliding around quite a bit. We have some work to do. In qualifying trim I thought we were pretty good and we finished up sixth in the first practice. I think we will be okay in qualifying trim but we have to come up with something better in race trim.”

Trivia time

Kyle Busch won the inaugural Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway last year. Who finished second?

Fast facts

The place: Kentucky Speedway

Configuration: 1.5-mile tri-oval

Banking: 14 degree in corners

Seating capacity: 106,000

First race: 2011

First race winner: Kyle Busch

Tonight’s race: The Quaker State 400

Tonight’s pole-sitter: Jimmie Johnson

The keys

The keys to success in tonight’s race at Kentucky come courtesy of Howard Comstock of SRT Motorsports Engineering:

Track Position: “The racetrack changes and you have to keep up with it but I think track position will be

Sprint Cup race No. 2 at Kentucky is scheduled for tonight. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

more critical than anything. A mediocre race car will run better up front than a good race car will run back in the field.”

Keep The Water Cool And Oil Even Cooler: “The cooling systems are good enough to keep the water cool in these cars. The teams will have to be careful to make sure that they keep the oil cool enough. We’re only talking about 20 degrees more ambient temperature that we’re used to. The oil operates at around 250 to 260 (degrees). If you’ve got that oil up to 280 or 290, there’d be some danger there that you might break down the oil and once you do that, the engine goes fast at the speeds that we’re running here. You’ll have to watch water temperature but I think you can control it. You have to be very careful with oil temperature. That’s something that we’re going to need to watch during the race.”

Take Care of the Front Splitter: “We use a splitter on the Sprint Cup car and the teams try to keep that splitter as close to the track as possible without hitting the track. You can’t hit that splitter for 400 miles and make it last. You’ve got to be careful not to keep hitting the splitter on the racetrack. It’s a bumpy track. We know that and it’s going to be a slippery track. There are certain parts of the track where a driver will try to put the car to minimize the bumps. With a slippery track, drivers may not be able to get the car where they want every lap. It’s going to be a situation where the driver is going to have to manage his race so that he doesn’t beat up the splitter on the car and ultimately give himself trouble.”

Slick Track: “If you notice, the racetrack is getting a very black streak in it from the rubber that’s getting built up from the heat, the heat in the tires. Part of the rubber comes off and gets applied to the racetrack. That’s what tends to make the track slick. Some of that gets washed off if we get rain but it looks like there’s little chance of rain. It’s slick in that blackened part of the track but it’s still driveable.”

Manage the Outside Groove: “Any car that gets around that black streak tends to get pulled toward the wall. There’s not a lot of traction above that. Does that mean we’re going to have a one-groove track? I think you’re going to have to manage that outside groove and be patient enough during the race to eventually get some rubber worked up the track before you’re going to be able to go high or two-wide here or three-wide sometimes. Even though it looks like a wide track, there’s not a wide groove yet.”

Bumps in the night

Tonight’s race will be run on a surface that has gotten bumpy. How bumpy?

“The interstate out there is a lot smoother than this,” driver Tony Stewart said. “The bumps are the biggest thing. They need to paint some more white dashes on the track it makes it a lot slicker every time you hit a small strip of paint that is on there it is making the cars move around. It’s just challenging. It’s fun because it’s not the same as everything else that we do each week. It’s definitely a challenge trying to get the car to go through the bumps.”

Trivia answer

Kyle Busch won last year’s race at Kentucky and finishing second was David Reutiman, then of Michael Waltrip Racing. Reutimann does not have a ride for tonight’s race.

Secrets among friends

Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth are teammates and friends. Like, best friends.

Yet Biffle said Friday that he did not know Kenseth was going to part ways with Roush Fenway Racing after the season until, basically, the announcement was made public.

“Yeah,” Biffle said, “I was a little bit surprised. Matt and I are good friends but we don’t talk about business much when we are together, other than racing. We don’t talk contracts or anything like that. I am going to lose a good teammate in the garage area. I am not going to lose a friend I guess, but I will lose a friend sitting in all the meetings and all that. We will still be good friends but certainly I lose a good teammate and that will be tough but Ricky is moving up into that car I guess and Ricky has done a great job. We have all felt, including Matt, that Ricky could probably do the job of our fourth car coming up. It will just end up being the third.”

Up next

The Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Mark Martin won the pole for last year’s race and David Ragan won the race.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, June 30 2012
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