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The following is an open letter to race fans written by Roger Curtis, the president of Michigan International Speedway.
We thought it was interesting, so we're passing it along to you.
What should have been a shining moment for the sport of NASCAR and all the racetracks, especially those in the Midwest, has sadly, potentially, put all of us back several steps – maybe even years.
A sellout NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway should have signaled the continuation of great things for race fans in the Midwest and for our sport.
Unfortunately Saturday' night's events became an exercise in blame and unpreparedness – and race fans, corporate partners, media and drivers were caught in the middle.
As a track promoter I am saddened and embarrassed about what happened this weekend. To think all the hard work that we've done here at Michigan International Speedway and other tracks have done could be so quickly erased by Saturday's events. That speedway, having been open for racing since 2000, should have known the challenges it would face when it tripled in size.
Just to be clear: This isn't about kicking a race track when it's down. We all make mistakes and MIS has certainly had past issues with traffic.
And it isn't about trying to sway a Kentucky Speedway ticketholder to come to Michigan – though we will be happy to treat them the way they should be treated should they want to give us a chance.
It's about apologizing and doing what's right when you are clearly in the wrong. It is about having your priorities right in the first place – on the fan experience.
That's why I'm upset.
It is bad enough the racetrack went into the weekend knowing traffic was going to be worse than they had previously had with other series. But to think Bruton Smith made light of it with the media, and then pointed the finger at the State of Kentucky when posed with traffic questions is unfathomable.
We work tirelessly with our legislators and local officials to ensure traffic moves efficiently and safely. We collaborate with local communities, our state, public safety officials and first-responders to ensure an event at Michigan International Speedway is a true public-private partnership; and not a business threatening to hold its region hostage to meet our demands.
It appears the mentality at some other racetracks today is to see how much money they can make off a fan. Their line of thinking is to ban coolers, have fire sales on last-minute tickets, build, build, build without thinking, thinking, thinking, and blame others for their mistakes.
Don't get me wrong: We are not perfect. But we listen to our fans, we recognize our shortcomings and we try to overcome them so race fans don't feel the burden. Most importantly, we learn from them so those mistakes don't happen again.
Michigan International Speedway is sincere when we say we want to do things for our fans to grow our business. That's why we lowered ticket prices for all our loyal fans, why we launched a Fan Appreciation program, why we have a Fan Advisory Board, why we allow larger coolers in the grandstands, why parking is always free and plenty, why we have invested more than $60 million in our facility the past four years, why we continue to work with the State of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan State Police to manage race-day traffic and why we have real race fans give a Fans' Trophy to the winning driver in Victory Lane.
We try really hard to educate our fans on traffic and our facility, have a system of feedback and information sharing with all our guests, and we listen to our guests about changes we need to make to grow our business. Fans are our bottom line.
On behalf of the MIS staff, I apologize to all the race fans whose expectations were not met this weekend, but also to those who read all the stories and were taken back by the treatment other people received.
That is not how we do business at our racetrack – and it's certainly not indicative of how every track operates. I hope fans recognize this and realize the vast majority in this great sport (not just tracks, but NASCAR officials, drivers and owners, as well) are working hard for the fans and do have their priorities right.
We do not take our guests for granted and we pledge to do everything we can every day to make your experience at MIS the best it can be.
We won't undercut our loyal customers with a knee-jerk ticket offer to make up for what happened on Saturday. But we will match what our loyal customers received by offering any race fan who has not had their expectations met at any racetrack with our lowest ticket price of the season for seats in Turns 1 and 3. Send us your race ticket and you can purchase a reserved ticket for $45 for the August 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Kentucky Speedway has released an additional statement on the traffic situation surrounding Saturday night's inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. The statement expands on the track's initial comments about the gridlock.
Here's the latest from Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger:
Kentucky Speedway regrets the traffic conditions surrounding the Quaker State 400. We're committed to working with NASCAR, state and local officials and traffic experts to assure that this never happens again. The details of these improvements will be announced over time as they are formulated.
We also recognize the traffic problems resulted in some fans not being able to attend the Quaker State 400. We are gathering information on this and will announce a policy for these affected fans within seven days.
Our Quaker State 400 ticket holders are invited to share their experiences with us through email@example.com. We thank all our fans for giving the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series such a great welcome to our venue.
Kyle Busch recaptured the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead following his victory at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night, taking over the top spot for the first time since Martinsville.
Former points leader Kevin Harvick fell to third, while Carl Edwards remained in second place – four points behind Busch.
Busch, David Ragan (15th) and David Reutimann (24th) were the biggest gainers of the night, picking up two positions apiece.
Clint Bowyer (12th) and AJ Allmendinger (18th) were the biggest losers, falling three spots each.
Here are the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after Kentucky:
Massive traffic was unfortunately one of the dominant storylines for the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway. Below is some of the traffic-related reaction from drivers and officials:
• Jimmie Johnson went home to Charlotte for his daughter's birthday on Friday and flew back to Cincinnati on Saturday morning. He planned to drive to the track, but instead arranged for a helicopter when he heard rumblings about the traffic.
"The stories I heard sounds like there's some upset fans, people that were turned away and weren't able to get into the event today," Johnson said. "It's disappointing. The SMI (track ownership) group knows racetracks and does a very good job at all the racetracks they own.
"It's unfortunate we were unable to look ahead and see where these potential problems were."
Johnson said the Kentucky area was a "great market" and acknowledged the fans were enthusiastic about the race. With that in mind, he called it "a bummer" that some weren't able to make it to the race.
"Knowing (owner) Bruton (Smith), he'll get it fixed for next year and unfortunately it happened this year," Johnson said.
• Denny Hamlin was caught in a couple hours of traffic coming from the Cincinnati area today, and said it reminded him of when he was a kid coming to the races.
Not that he enjoyed it. Hamlin tweeted from the road that he was in so much gridlock, he was worried he'd miss the pre-race drivers meeting (he eventually made it on time).
"Bruton (Smith) and all those guys know that it is an issue," he said. "My P.R. guy didn't even make it here before the start of the race. It's tough, because you've got a lot of demand for seats out here, you've got a lot of fans who want to come out here and watch the first race. But you can't do anything when there are just two-lane roads."
• NASCAR expressed regret for the traffic issues, even though the sanctioning body wasn't responsible for the gridlock.
"We had a great race and a heckuva crowd here this evening," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. "It's disappointing the fans had a difficult time getting in here tonight.
"We expect the track to address this situation head-on and have a much better situation for the fans moving forward."
• Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger released a statement vowing to do better for the 107,000 fans next time.
"We know we had challenges related to traffic," he said. "We're already planning improvements and looking forward to a much better situation for next year's event."
Shockingly and swiftly, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s once-promising season is heading south.
Though he sat comfortably inside the Chase just a few weeks ago – he was within 10 points of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series lead after Pocono – Earnhardt Jr. has had four consecutive sub-par finishes to drop him to eighth in the standings.
NASCAR's most popular driver is now just 21 points ahead of 11th-place Tony Stewart – and Earnhardt Jr. doesn't have a win that would help him to a wild card berth should he fall out of the top 10.
Saturday night's inaugural Cup race at Kentucky Speedway only added to the problem. Earnhardt Jr. was already headed for what he termed a "disappointing" finish before a blown tire late in the race made things even worse.
He settled for a 30th-place finish, and was very subdued in a brief interview afterward. There was little opportunity to pass, he said, and NASCAR "has that kind of racing a lot."
"It was disappointing from the start," he said. "We were OK. ... I'd move around and try to find speed, and it'd just go slower. So I had this one line that I'd just run over and over. And I didn't catch anybody and, if I was lucky, nobody caught me. That was pretty much how it went."
And Earnhardt Jr. didn't have a good car anyway, he said. The team missed the setup for some reason, and was never particularly competitive.
"When we showed up, we were real happy – and we just dialed ourselves out from there," he said quietly. "We didn't ride the bumps good, the car didn't cut the corner good. ... We would have finished well if we would have got some track position, but damn, man, we just couldn't ever get it."
To add insult to injury, Earnhardt Jr. blew a tire immediately following what was supposed to be his final pit stop. Pulling off the track to get enough fuel to make it to the end, Earnhardt Jr. slid his left-front tire while coming onto pit road.
When he drove back onto the track, the tire blew out.
"It was all my fault," he said.
Earnhardt Jr. had just two finishes outside the top 15 in the first 14 races; since then, he's had four straight results outside the top 15.
Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch dominated the inaugural running of the Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway, surviving a late-race caution and restart with three laps to go to score his 99th NASCAR touring series victory. Winning Thursday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, Busch missed out on the weekend sweep but won Saturday night's inaugural Quaker State 400.
"This is cool, man," Busch said in Victory Lane. "This is right up there with the big ones. I haven't won the big ones, so this is as good as it gets right now."
Here is how they finished:
The biggest topic during Kentucky Speedway's inaugural Sprint Cup Series event has been the nightmarish traffic that has plagued the track all day long.
Traffic was already backed up on I-71, the main route to NASCAR's newest venue, more than eight hours before the race. Things only got worse as the day went on, with fans reporting 20-plus mile backups.
Cars were still lined up and trying to get into the speedway entrance halfway through the race, but fans on Twitter reported being turned away due to a lack of parking spaces.
The post-race traffic jam is feared to be even worse.
With 100 laps remaining in the race, Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger released a statement:
We've had an overwhelming response to our inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400. We know we had challenges related to traffic. We're already planning improvements and looking forward to a much better situation for next year's event.
It's time for the inaugural Kentucky Speedway race, and we're live at the track for all the action.
For those of you at home, feel free to chat here about the race and we'll try to answer any questions you may have. Make sure the auto-refresh box is checked in order to see the latest comments from fans.
It's NASCAR race night at Kentucky Speedway, and we've got the actual race start time, the starting lineup and some other facts about the inaugural Quaker State 400 for you below.
Start time: The command to start engines will be given by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear at 7:37 p.m. Eastern time. After a few pace laps, honorary starter Allan McDonald (an official with the Canadian Tire Corp.) will wave the green flag at 7:45 p.m. Eastern. Actually, to be exact, NASCAR projects the race will start at 30 seconds past 7:45. Either way, if you want to skip the pre-race show and just tune in for the race, flip on your TV set at 7:45.
Race name/distance: The inaugural Kentucky race is the Quaker State 400 – that's 267 laps around the 1.5-mile track for a total of 400.5 miles.
TV and radio: TNT's penultimate race of its six-race NASCAR broadcasting stint is tonight, but we also recommend you take advantage of TNT's "RaceBuddy" application over at NASCAR.com. You can watch the race on your computer and pick which camera angle you want to watch for free. If you aren't near a TV, the radio broadcast can be found on your local Performance Racing Network (PRN) affiliate. Click here to see a list of PRN stations where you can listen.
National anthem: Jimmie Johnson's close buddy Nick Lachey – yes, the former Newlyweds reality show star who was once married to Jessica Simpson – is doing the anthem honors tonight. His boy band background (he was in the group 98 Degrees) should serve him well for the anthem.
Tickets: If you don't have a ticket for today's inaugural Kentucky race, you might as well stay home. All 107,000 grandstand seats are sold out, and while there were standing-room only tickets still available heading into the weekend, it's probably not worth the gamble to make the trip. Traffic is expected to be a nightmare for the first Kentucky event, and track officials are asking fans to avoid using the main off-ramp from I-71.
Weather: According to the unofficial NASCAR weatherman, the temperature at race time tonight is expected to be around 83 degrees. Mostly dry and clear weather is forecasted for the event.
Last time: There is no last time. This is the first-ever Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway
Starting lineup for tonight's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway:
Kyle Busch's fast practice speed resulted in the No. 1 starting spot for the first-ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway.
Busch, who already has won at Kentucky Speedway this weekend, was the fastest car in the 90-minute Cup practice earlier Friday.
And when a small storm cell came through and washed out Sprint Cup qualifying halfway through the session, practice speeds set the field – at least for the top 35 in points.
"Car's been fast," Busch said. "Look forward to starting up front and trying to keep good track position."
Others weren't so lucky. Michael Waltrip and David Stremme had made it into the race via their qualifying speeds (21 cars had already taken laps), but the rain washed out their times.
The go-or-go-home cars were determined based on the NASCAR rulebook, which put Scott Riggs and Tony Raines into the show.
Juan Pablo Montoya will start on the outside pole, followed by Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson.
Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, David Ragan, Tony Stewart and Paul Menard rounded out the top 10.
The starting lineup was set based on the first (and only) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice. Here's the starting lineup for the inaugural Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway:
Denny Hamlin, known for being honest and opinionated, said Friday that NASCAR racing is "not about just all-out speed anymore."
Speaking to reporters at Kentucky Speedway, Hamlin observed that because the cars are so aero-sensitive and the rules are restricted on the current model Cup car, all the cars are basically going the same speed.
"That's why we've seen the limited amount of passing for the lead and things like that on regular racetracks that we've been accustomed to," Hamlin said. "Everyone is running so even, and when you run even, there's no passing."
Hamlin's comments followed the words of Carl Edwards, who also criticized the current Sprint Cup car recently. Though other drivers have made similar comments over the past couple years, Hamlin's words were a bit more blunt than some others.
"We can't overcome track position," Hamlin said. "The aero is such a big factor nowadays and we're running such high speeds that it's tough. (We've got) the best drivers in the world and you can't make passes like you used to because of the speeds are up."
If cars are varied in speed, Hamlin said there's a lot of "overtaking" on the track. But equal speeds have placed a high priority on track position and strategy.
Teams have virtually tapped out all they can get out of the current car, Hamlin said, and they're in such a tight box that there are no advancements that can be made.
"There's no new development that we can really do to these cars that's going to gain us a half-second over somebody else to make where we can pass," he said.
The positive has been an increase of first-time winners – Regan Smith won the Southern 500 at Darlington because he chose track position over fresh tires – and different faces in Victory Lane.
"It's good in the competition sense that really these races anyone can win," Hamlin said. "But it's just who puts themselves in position up front with 50 to go."
The return of sponsor UPS is still uncertain at Roush Fenway Racing, but driver David Ragan said Friday he remains hopeful.
Ragan, who earned his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory last week at Daytona International Speedway, said he's trying to simply worry about performing on the track to the best of his abilities.
"What I think about is what I can control," he said. "I do think about (the future) some, because I've had a great time with UPS and I feel like we have a good relationship and a good thing going and I look for it to continue, but that is something that the management at Roush and UPS will work on.
"Hopefully, I can uphold my end of the deal and keep that Ford up front."
Ragan's future at Roush could be tied to UPS' decision, so he has more than a passing interest in the situation. But there's really nothing he can do about it but keep running well, he said.
And what does Ragan consider to be a realistic timeline for UPS to decide where the company will spend next year and beyond?
"I think the summer months are certainly the time when all the decisions are made," he said. "I don't know for sure, but my guess would be in the next four-to-six weeks is when a decision would be made."
Over the years NASCAR has taken its share of criticism over its consistency when it comes to throwing caution flags, and last Saturday night's final laps at Daytona International Speedway were no different.
As the race came to a close, the field bunched up in the fourth turn and Jeff Gordon slid down the track onto the apron. While making no contact with any other cars or the wall, NASCAR immediately displayed the caution flag thus setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
Yet when two separate wrecks occurred on the final lap of the race, no caution was thrown and cars continued to race to the checkered flag at full speed, despite wrecked cars scattered across the track and tri-oval grass.
One of those cars sitting vulnerable on the track as three or more cars zipped past was Ryan Newman. After making a strong charge to the front, the initial caution for Gordon's slide ruined the No. 39 team's chances at the win. Instead, Newman was collected among the gaggle of cars torn up in the final lap wreck.
Newman, who has been an outspoken critic of safety - especially at restrictor plate tracks, said it was not so much a question of cars racing back to the checkered flag, but NASCAR's decision when to throw the caution flag.
"We were getting back to the lead and then the No. 24 (Gordon) got sideways, never totally spun out, got sideways, kept going and then the yellow came out," Newman said. "I remember going back to Talladega where I got sideways, got drilled in the door, knocked back straight, then two laps later the yellow finally came out when my tire blew.
"Not very good consistency there, but I don't know why you would throw a yellow when there's one car spinning, not even spinning, going sideways and never hits anybody or anything or any debris and then at the very end you have cars going every which way and you say there wasn't a yellow which I wasn't aware of."
Having been fined in the past for his comments critical of NASCAR, Newman went about this subject a bit more carefully, admitting it is a "tough situation" to call the end of the race.
"NASCAR has to look into a lot of things while a lot of cars are going in every different direction at speed it's very tough to make that call because of the speed the cars are going," he said. "I guess they would potentially be more criticized for throwing the yellow and locking the field into position than letting us sort it out ourselves. Like I said, it's a catch-22, it's 50/50, as long as it works out safe then I don't think anybody could or should be mad."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he was surprised to hear his fans lit into Jimmie Johnson on Twitter following Saturday night's race at Daytona International Speedway – but added he probably shouldn't have been.
"I was (surprised), but these people are passionate," he said. "I don't know if I should be that surprised by anything with the fans. 'Cause they're passionate, you know? They get in their minds what they think is right and what they think happened and they run with it."
Some of Junior Nation was angry with Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, for ditching the two-car partnership the Nos. 48 and 88 cars had. Fans felt Johnson owed Earnhardt Jr. after the 88 pushed the 48 to the win at Talladega earlier this year.
As Earnhardt Jr. said after the race, his frustration was more with the end-of-race chaos on the track than with Johnson. And when he spoke to reporters at Kentucky Speedway on Friday, he still felt the same way.
"(Johnson's decision to pit) didn't really bother me at all," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday. "I figured Jimmie would still have a good opportunity to get up to me and help us, and we were in fine shape until people forgot how to drive or thought they could disobey the laws of physics. They were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole."
Johnson, who also spoke to reporters on Friday, said the pair waited too long to make their move and were too far back in the field. At that point, Johnson's only chance at a good finish was to hope for three green-white-checkered attempts – which Knaus felt would run some cars out of fuel.
"Tires don't make that much of a difference there, so I assume it was trying to get enough fuel in the car to go three green-white-checkers," said Johnson, who added he hadn't spoken to Knaus about the reasoning.
Johnson said in that situation, it becomes a mentality of "Let's just do whatever we can to get our best finish."
"It was kind of every man for himself, because we were so deep in the field," Johnson said.
Earnhardt Jr. said he didn't have a problem with that way of thinking.
"They got to do what they've got to do on pit road," he said. "If they want to come pit, they've got to come pit. I can't argue with that. I'm fine with that. I don't have a problem with what he did.
"It seemed like just a normal damn race to me – the man wanted to go down pit road. No big deal. Caution was out. That's probably a good time to go down pit road."
As Earnhardt Jr. heard about the flack Johnson was catching on Twitter – Johnson kindly labeled the tweets as "creative messages" – he called his Hendrick Motorsports teammate to sympathize.
"Now you know why I don't have Twitter!" Earnhardt Jr. told Johnson on the phone.
But while NASCAR's most popular driver wasn't upset with Johnson, he was still frustrated over the how the Daytona race ended.
"You run all night long to get to the end of that race, and you can see the finish line," he said. "Then you just all crash for some reason. Pretty stupid."
Showers and storms will be around Kentucky Speedway this morning and could continue into the early afternoon. Both Nationwide and Sprint Cup Practices could be affected. As the day wears on the showers are expected to decrease as we head into the evening. For Saturday, much drier but hot and muggy and remaining warm and dry into the evening for the Sprint Cup race.
9:00 a.m EDT
Nationwide Final Practice– Sun & Clouds, possible shower or storm - temp: 73
11:30 a.m EDT
Sprint Cup Practice – Sun & Clouds, possible shower or storm - temp: 75
1:30 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Final Practice – Sun & Clouds, possible shower or storm - temp: 78
3:30 p.m EDT
Nationwide Qualifying – Sun & Clouds, slight chance of a storm/shower - temp: 80
5:00 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Qualifying – Sun & Clouds, slight chance of a storm/shower - temp: 80
7:30 p.m EDT
Nationwide Race – Patchy clouds - temp: 75
7:30 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Race – Mostly clear and dry - temp: 83
NASCAR acknowledged the tandem racing at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway is "different" and "takes awhile to digest," but praised the level of competition in two-car drafts during a news conference with reporters on Thursday.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, said no matter what the form of racing at Daytona and Talladega, the sanctioning body will always have critics among its drivers.
"I never saw a driver get out of a car after a wreck and compliment how things were going," Pemberton said. "I haven't seen it yet."
Pemberton said it was still "too close" to the end of last week's Coke Zero 400 to make a decision on whether or not to try and change the rules to break up the two-car drafts. But he said NASCAR will "put some folks together and we'll talk about it."
He cited statistics – the number of leaders and lead changes, in particular – as evidence the tandem racing created great competition.
"There's elements of that (racing) that are different; it takes awhile to digest that," he said. "And there's quite a few folks whose opinions have changed over the course of time. It's only been since we started to repave racetracks. And really, it's a backhanded compliment to how smooth the surfaces are at Daytona and Talladega that this type of racing has evolved."
Pemberton said restrictor-plate racing will "continue to evolve" and said NASCAR would "keep an eye on it and see what comes out of it."
In other plate-related news, NASCAR says it is unsure how restrictor-plate racing will be implemented next year when electronic fuel injection is introduced full time into the Sprint Cup Series.
Currently, a metal restrictor plate is placed into the carburetor to restrict air flow – thus reducing the engine's horsepower and speed of the car. But with carburetors being replaced by fuel injection, Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said officials are unsure of what form the plates will take.
Darby said the "easiest and most economical way" to control the amount of horsepower an engine produces is to restrict the amount of air flow that goes into it.
"So we'll continue to do it that way," he said. "Will it be in the form of what we know as today's restrictor plate? Maybe, maybe not. We're looking at some other things."
Those "other things" likely won't include any electronics that would restrict the engine airflow, Darby said. NASCAR prefers to use mechanical methods to restrict the air.
Kevin Harvick took his seat on the Kentucky Speedway media center stage, looked around the room and offered the hint of a smile.
"This is what our sport needs," he said. "New events, new facilities for us to race on."
Harvick, who has long been a proponent of NASCAR traveling to different tracks and thus reaching different groups of fans, was clearly pleased about the Sprint Cup Series' arrival at the Kentucky track for the first time.
"Change is good," he said. "I've been preaching that we need to go to different racetracks for a long time, because as you can see, the enthusiasm and the excitement and the publicity and everything that comes with a new venue, that lasts for several years."
The Kentucky race is already an announced sellout of 107,000.
Harvick also touched on several other issues, including today's fuel injection test session and the Nationwide Series' move to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, calling it "a big day for our sport in general."
• On fuel injection: Harvick said next year's switch from carburetors to fuel injection (the engine technology used in all modern street cars) is "a huge step for the sport."
"To make the cars relevant with what's on the street, it's huge for the manufacturers to have that," he said.
Harvick, though, doesn't plan to drive his team's car with fuel injection today – unless team owner Richard Childress makes him.
"Because it doesn't really matter what it feels like or what it does," he said. "When you switch to it, you adapt to whatever those characteristics are and you forget about whatever's in there."
• On how teams will use today's test session: Sprint Cup teams hardly ever get the opportunity to test on a 1.5-mile track these days, so Harvick said teams will spend time trying a variety of different ideas that could apply to any number of other venues.
Because of a recent tire test, most teams already have the Kentucky data needed to set up their cars on a seven-post shaker rig. So the focus will be on a "checklist" of concepts, Harvick said, more than just using today's session to learn about Kentucky Speedway in advance of Saturday night's inaugural Cup race.
• Kentucky Speedway isn't a cookie-cutter track: Harvick said the 1.5-mile track doesn't necessarily translate to a Kansas or Chicagoland-type circuit because its corners are shaped differently. In addition, there are several significant bumps on the front straightaway and the track is quite rough – and both are good things that add character, Harvick said.
• For a Nationwide Series owner, the move from Lucas Oil Raceway to Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a good thing: Harvick said the Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly ORP/IRP) event was always difficult to sell from a team sponsorship standpoint; but sponsors will get excited about moving to the Brickyard, he said.
"ORP has been a huge part of the series up until this point," he said. "You would love to see it get worked out to see the Truck series stay there or have the ARCA series come there, but when you have the opportunity to go to the Brickyard... It's no different than coming here. The enthusiasm is up."
And to those who believe the Nationwide cars shouldn't be racing on the Indy's historic oval?
"Our biggest facility is Daytona and all of our series run there, so what makes Indianapolis any more special than Daytona?" he said. "If our cars are good enough to run on the Daytona International Speedway, they're plenty good enough to run at the Brickyard."
Typical summer weather around the Ohio Valley, hot and humid with a couple of weather disturbances that could spark isolated showers and storms. The best chance for these showers and storms looks to be on Friday. Once we get into the weekend, although hot and steamy, it should be rain free for Kentucky Speedway's first Sprint Cup Series race.
10:00 a.m EDT
Truck Final Practice – Mostly Sunny - temp: 82
11:00 a.m EDT
Sprint Cup Practice – Mostly Sunny - temp: 84
3:00 p.m EDT
Truck Qualifying – Sun & Clouds, isolated storm poss. - temp: 91
4:00 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Practice – Sun & Clouds, isolated storm poss. - temp: 90
6:00 p.m EDT
Nationwide Practice – Sun & Clouds, isolated storm poss. - temp: 90
8:00 p.m EDT
Truck Race – Patchy clouds, isolated storm poss. - temp: 82
9:00 a.m EDT
Nationwide Final Practice– Sun & Clouds, possible shower or storm - temp: 73
11:30 a.m EDT
Sprint Cup Practice – Sun & Clouds, possible shower or storm - temp: 79
1:30 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Final Practice – Sun & Clouds, possible shower or storm - temp: 82
3:30 p.m EDT
Nationwide Qualifying – Sun & Clouds, possible shower or storm - temp: 83
5:00 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Qualifying – Sun & Clouds, possible shower or storm - temp: 83
7:30 p.m EDT
Nationwide Race – Sun & Clouds, just an isolated threat of storms - temp: 80
7:30 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Race – Mostly clear and dry - temp: 83
The inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekend at the Kentucky Speedway is chock full of action, starting with the Camping World Truck Series Wednesday afternoon.
The Sprint Cup Series will be on the track Thursday for nearly six hours testing fuel injection, before starting the weekend's practice sessions on Friday. In addition to the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series, the Nationwide Series is also in Kentucky for the Feed The Children 300.
Here is the schedule of events this weekend at Kentucky Speedway (all times Eastern):
4 p.m. - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Practice (1 hour)
6 p.m. - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Practice (1 hour)
10 a.m. - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Final Practice (1 hour)
11:05 a.m. - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Fuel Injection Testing (3 hours 55 minutes)
3:05 p.m. - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Qualifying
4 p.m. - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Fuel Injection Testing (2 hours)
6:10 p.m. - NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice (1 hour, 15 minutes)
8 p.m. - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race (150 laps, 225 miles)
9 a.m. - NASCAR Nationwide Series Final Practice (2 hours)
11:30 a.m. - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice (1 hour)
1:30 p.m. - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Final Practice (1 hour, 30 minutes)
3:35 p.m. - NASCAR Nationwide Series Qualifying
5:10 p.m. - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying
7:30 p.m. - NASCAR Nationwide Series Race (200 laps, 300 miles)
7:30 p.m. - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race (267 laps, 400.5 miles)
On Saturday night, for the first time since 1954, NASCAR will hold a Sprint Cup Series race in the state of Kentucky.
You're forgiven if you don't remember the previous Cup race in the Bluegrass State. It was a 100-mile race held on a dirt track called Corbin Speedway; race winner Lee Petty and Herschel McGriff were the only drivers to finish on the lead lap.
After that one race, though, the Cup Series never returned to Kentucky. Until now.
Kentucky Speedway – a 1.5-mile track in Sparta – opened in 2000, but its owners never received a Cup date from NASCAR despite solid crowds for IndyCar and NASCAR Nationwide/Truck races. The original owners famously sued NASCAR in an attempt to get the coveted Cup race, but failed and eventually gave up.
Owner Jerry Carroll sold the facility to Bruton Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc. in 2008, but Smith also had trouble securing a date for his new venue until he agreed to move a race from Atlanta.
So here we are: NASCAR's first trip to a new Cup track since 2001. And at least for the first event, drivers will race in front of a sold-out crowd of 107,000.
No one knows quite what to expect, though it is a 1.5-mile track. Expect to see the usual suspects up front throughout the night – and a massive traffic jam after the race.
Keep it here all weekend, as we're live from Kentucky Speedway for NASCAR's inaugural Sprint Cup Series race in Sparta.
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