NASCAR At Kentucky 2012: Brad Keselowski Wins Quaker State 400

Keselowski picked up his third victory of the season and all but wrapped up a Chase berth on Saturday night at Kentucky.

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NASCAR Point Standings 2012: Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman And Joey Logano Tied For Final Wild Card Spot

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wild card race can't get much closer than this.

With nine races until the Chase cutoff, there are three drivers tied for the final wild card spot: Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano. Kahne technically leads on a tiebreaker following Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Kyle Busch holds the other wild card spot.

Meanwhile, Greg Biffle's off-night at Kentucky dropped him two spots in the point standings to fourth, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson took advantage by each moving up one spot.

Tony Stewart was the biggest mover overall in the top 10, tumbling four positions to ninth in the standings. Denny Hamlin was the biggest gainer, moving up three spots to fifth.

Matt Kenseth continues to lead the standings, by 11 over Earnhardt Jr.

Here are the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with how they relate to the Chase:

  1. Matt Kenseth +130 inside the top 10
  2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. +119
  3. Jimmie Johnson +107
  4. Greg Biffle +105
  5. Denny Hamlin +62
  6. Kevin Harvick +62
  7. Clint Bowyer +54
  8. Martin Truex Jr. +53
  9. Tony Stewart +42
  10. Brad Keselowski +34
  11. Carl Edwards -34 from top 10 (-1 win from Wild Card No. 1)
  12. Kyle Busch -42 (Holds Wild Card No. 1, one win)
  13. Paul Menard -60 (-1 win from Wild Card No. 2)
  14. Kasey Kahne -74 (Holds Wild Card No. 2, one win)
  15. Ryan Newman -74 (-0 from Wild Card No. 2, one win)
  16. Joey Logano -74 (-0 from Wild Card No. 2, one win)
  17. Marcos Ambrose -81
  18. Jeff Gordon -84
  19. Jamie McMurray -106
  20. Jeff Burton -109
  21. Juan Pablo Montoya -120
  22. Aric Almirola -131
  23. AJ Allmendinger -137
Note: Drivers below this position in the point standings cannot realistically make the Chase
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NASCAR Kentucky Results: More Disappointment For Carl Edwards

There is no better encapsulation of Carl Edwards' frustrating 2012 season than Saturday night's NASCAR race at Kentucky Speedway (see full Quaker State 400 results here).

The 1.5-mile track is the kind of oval Edwards has excelled on throughout his career, and he was expected to be in contention for the victory – or at the very least, a finish somewhere in the top five.

And for a while that was the case, as Edwards ran most of the evening in the top 10 and had worked himself up to third, in excellent position to get his first win of the year (a victory Edwards desperately needs if he is to qualify for the Chase).

But as has been the case so many times this season, Saturday's night race came down to fuel mileage, and if Edwards was to get that win, he was going to need a caution to help his cause. You see, under the previous yellow flag, Edwards was supposed to have pitted to top off his fuel, but by the time the message had been delivered, Edwards was already past pit road.

And with no cautions the rest of the way, Edwards was forced to make a green-flag pit stop with four laps to go, giving up the fourth position.

"We had a pretty good car at the end. Bob (Osborne, crew chief) called me onto pit road," Edwards said when interviewed after the race. "He knew we should have pitted that last time but I was already so far around that cone that I just didn't feel right cutting across traffic and slamming the splitter down to make it to pit road. We were put in a box. We hoped there would be a caution but there wasn't."

Edwards finished 20th and finds himself in an even deeper hole points-wise than he was when the night started. He's now 34 points out of 10th and because he hasn't won, the Roush Fenway driver trails Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman – all of whom have been victorious – in the hunt for one of the two wild card spots.

"It is time for us to get it in gear," Edwards said. "I am real frustrated, Bob is real frustrated and I know we can do this. We ran as well as any Ford out here [Saturday]."

Because of how the championship was lost last year, as well as the frustration the No. 99 team has experienced this season, everyone on the team is now facing a crossroads. Either they can right the ship and still savage their season (much like Tony Stewart did last year) or they continue to unravel and go from title contender to also-ran.

"We have to stick together as a team," Edwards said. "That is what Bob and I talked about last week. I hear it all. I hear everything. I hear, ‘He is focused on the (TV) booth, he is tore up over Tony's deal last year, he needs a new crew chief.' None of that is true. We are having some bad luck and some bad communication here. We can do this together.

"We could divide right now or we could come together. I have the best crew chief in the business and he proved it at the end of the year last year. We got beat on a crazy call by Darian (Grubb) and those guys last year and we need to get going and get this Ford in Victory Lane."

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NASCAR At Kentucky: Brad Keselowski's Five Best Post-Win Quotes

Brad Keselowski always has a lot to say and is one of NASCAR's most thoughtful, articulate drivers. So whenever he wins, there are plenty of good quotes.

Here are Keselowski's five most interesting comments from his post-race news conference after winning Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway:

On his team rallying after a wreck in practice:

They put together a backup car from last year in 100-degree heat in an hour's timenot even an hour. It was like 40 minutes. I wish I had a stopwatch for that. ... And that's what badasses do, and that's what got us to Victory Lane today, and I'm proud of these guys for it. Damn proud of them.

On his practice incident with Juan Pablo Montoya and why he was so upset:

I don't like being pushed around, and I felt like what happened on the racetrack, that someone was pushing me around, and I don't like that. I hate that. I can't stand it, and I won't stand for that. I can't stand it.

On the importance of making the Chase top 10 and not just the wild card:

I think you all got the points backwards. You look at who is leading with most points earned. That don't mean anything. The only thing that means anything is what's going to restart when the Chase is going, when it starts. That's going to be based off of who is in the top 10 and who has the most wins. That is the only thing that matters.

On his steering wheel breaking just prior to the start of the race:

I put it on before the race started, gave it a tug and it broke in my hands. If that would have happened on the racetrack today we'd have been obviously not winning the race – and potentially worse.

On hearing from the fans via Twitter after his win:

I like it a lot. I like how the fans engage us back. I mean, hell, that's what y'all (reporters) are: You're the voice of the fans, right? Sometimes I've got the way to go direct to them and I like to do both. I think it's fun.

RELATED: Full Quaker State 400 results from Saturday night's Kentucky race.

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NASCAR Kentucky Results 2012: Kyle Busch Gets Top-10 Despite 'Three Pogo Sticks'

Kyle Busch led 116 laps in Saturday night's NASCAR Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, but didn't compete for the win as a broken shock relegated him to a 10th-place finish.

Busch appeared to have the strongest car in the early stages of the race, leading from lap 46-96 and again from lap 99-129 of the 267-lap race. But his fortunes changed on lap 118 when he tagged the backstretch wall and developed a vibration. He maintained his lead until the lap 126 caution, but the car wasn't the same in traffic. The contact broke spring mount which ultimately led to a broken spring.

RESULTS: See the full Kentucky finishing order here.

There were about 80 laps between making contact with the wall and losing the shock, Busch said after the race.

"We were having a lot of fun early, but it turned into another tough night," Busch said. "We salvaged a heck of a finish considering all we went through, driving on three pogo sticks."

It's been a tumultuous five-week stretch for Busch, who has an average finish of 24th dating back to Dover. The driver of Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 18 car blew three straight engines at Dover, Pocono, and Michigan and was caught up in an accident last week at Sonoma.

The loss of a shock at Kentucky was exaggerated by the bumpy track surface and the car was visibly ill during the second half of the race. Capturing his eighth top-10 of the season was a moral victory all things considered.

The recent struggles have dropped Busch to 12th in the standings, but his Richmond victory has him safe for now as the first wild card. Busch is now 42 points behind 10th-place Brad Keselowski.

"We're still within reach of the top 10, but we're just not running the way that we need to be running right now," Busch said.

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NASCAR At Kentucky: Kasey Kahne's Pit-Road Issues Prove Costly

Nobody passed more cars in Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway and no one at the end of the race was faster than Kasey Kahne. But that still wasn't enough to get Kahne his second win of the year, and the Hendrick Motorsports driver instead finished a distant second to race winner Brad Keselowski.

But entering the weekend 17th in points and too far behind to climb into the top 10, Kahne knows he needs another victory if he is to make the Chase. That is why, despite the very respectable finish that many others would gladly take, Kahne couldn't help but feel like he let one get away.

"Yeah, top-five is good, probably not going to get us in the Chase," Kahne said after the race. "We need to win a race or two more to make the Chase."

This feeling is compounded by the fact that if it weren't for two pit-road issues, it likely would have been Kahne celebrating in Victory Lane instead of Keselowski. A loose right-front wheel necessitated a unscheduled green-flag pit stop and put Kahne a lap down to the leaders early in the race, and a slow pit stop later put him further behind.

"The pit crew is really good at times and they're solid," Kahne said. "We've got to keep working on it and got to be a little stronger throughout. But my car was fast. And I think the longer the run went, the better we seemed to get."

In spite of the many hurdles he had to overcome, there was Kahne in the closing laps, running down the leaders and in contention. He passed a total of 98 cars under the green flag – the most of anyone (Kurt Busch was second with 87).

But even as he was doing so, though, the reality was the only way the No. 5 Chevrolet was going to end the night in the winner's circle was if something happened to Keselowski.

"I just hoped he'd run out of gas," Kahne said. "There was no way I was catching him. We had enough gas to run as hard as I could all the way to the finish, and I was hoping his would shut off, off of (Turn) 2 or something."

Alas, Lady Luck wasn't with Kahne and all he was left to do was wonder what if.

"Like I said, my pit crew is solid," Kahne said. "They're a really good group of guys that work as hard as anyone, probably harder than everyone or most. We just had a couple of bad stops. The runs we're going and things, I'm sure losing a ton of time on pit road, you'll never catch up."

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NASCAR Kentucky Results: Brad Keselowski Wins Quaker State 400

Building a big lead during the final green-flag run and saving enough fuel to get to the end of the race, Brad Keselowski won Saturday night's Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race in a backup car.

Keselowski, who wrecked his primary car after tangling with Juan Pablo Montoya in Friday's first practice session for the race, picked up his series-best third victory of the season and the seventh of his career, all but assuring himself of a position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Kasey Kahne rallied from an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 52 to finish second, followed by Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jeff Gordon came home fifth, one spot in front of pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson, as Hendrick Motorsports drivers claimed four of the top six positions.

Ignition troubles ruined defending series champion Tony Stewart's night almost before it started. Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet fell off the pace on Lap 26. By the time his team diagnosed and fixed the problem in the garage, Stewart was 35 laps down.

A bad night got worse for Stewart-Haas Racing on Lap 210, when Ryan Newman, Stewart's teammate, blew his engine, spun in his own oil and slammed into the outside wall in Turn 2, with Regan Smith hitting the wall behind him.

Clint Bowyer, last week's winner at Sonoma, was the innocent victim of contact that jeopardized his seventh-place position in the standings. Shortly after a restart on Lap 155, Bowyer was racing in close quarters with Newman, on new tires, and Joey Logano, who took fuel only during a pit stop under caution on Lap 150.

With a huge run off Turn 4, Newman clipped the back of Logano's Toyota in the tri-oval, turning him into Bowyer's Camry. On Lap 166, Bowyer brought his car to pit road, fearing he had a tire losing air. Bowyer lost two laps in the process and fell to 32nd in the running order.

But a cycle of green-flag stops and a free pass as the highest-scored lapped car returned Bowyer to the lead lap under the caution for Newman's wreck, and the driver of the No. 15 Toyota salvaged a 16th-place finish.

Here are the results from Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway:

  1. Brad Keselowski
  2. Kasey Kahne
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  5. Jeff Gordon
  6. Jimmie Johnson
  7. Matt Kenseth
  8. Martin Truex Jr.
  9. AJ Allmendinger
  10. Kyle Busch
  11. Kevin Harvick
  12. Paul Menard
  13. Marcos Ambrose
  14. Juan Pablo Montoya
  15. Jamie McMurray
  16. Clint Bowyer
  17. Travis Kvapil
  18. Casey Mears
  19. Kurt Busch
  20. Carl Edwards
  21. Greg Biffle
  22. Joey Logano
  23. David Reutimann
  24. Jeff Burton
  25. Landon Cassill
  26. Aric Almirola
  27. Bobby Labonte
  28. David Gilliland
  29. David Ragan
  30. Michael Waltrip
  31. Ken Schrader
  32. Tony Stewart
  33. Regan Smith
  34. Ryan Newman
  35. Dave Blaney
  36. David Stremme
  37. Josh Wise
  38. Michael McDowell
  39. Scott Speed
  40. Joe Nemechek
  41. Stephen Leicht
  42. Mike Bliss
  43. Scott Riggs
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Joe Gibbs: Denny Hamlin Signs Extension, Team Wants Deal With Joey Logano

Amid news of a contract extension for Denny Hamlin and speculation swirling around Matt Kenseth's possible arrival at Joe Gibbs Racing next year, team owner Joe Gibbs said Saturday at Kentucky Speedway that his top priority was re-signing Joey Logano.

Logano, 22, who is in a contract year, has five NASCAR Nationwide Series victories and one Sprint Cup win to his credit this year and has begun to blossom in his pairing with first-year Cup crew chief Jason Ratcliff.

"We're working real hard right now on extending him and his relationship with us," Gibbs said Friday after the drivers' meeting for Saturday night's Quaker State 400. "We've had a great relationship -- signed him when he was 15. We've got a lot invested in Joey. I think right now he's stepping up, and we want him to be with us."

Asked whether sponsor Home Depot would continue to be part of the equation, Gibbs told the NASCAR Wire Service, "I think part of what we've got going on with us right now -- there's a lot going on. So the things I talked about . . . Joey, we want to get that done. Everything else is kind of up in the air for us right now."

It's fair to say that sponsor alignments are in a state of flux at JGR. Gibbs said that inking a new deal for Hamlin was a separate issue from extending the deal of Hamlin's sponsor, FedEx.

"It doesn't have anything to do with FedEx -- it's just Denny," Gibbs said, but that doesn't preclude the possibility of FedEx returning to Hamlin's car.

Gibbs was mum on the Kenseth rumors, but he left the door open for a future announcement.

"I don't think I should spend time talking about that right now," Gibbs said. "The timing's not there for us to talk about that. We've got a lot of decisions that need to be made, and we're working through that right now."

Kenseth, the Cup points leader, announced earlier this week that he would not return to Roush Fenway Racing and already had a new deal in place for 2013, with JGR the clear front-runner for the role of Kenseth's new employer.

Hamlin is eighth in the series standings with two Cup wins this season. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota confirmed on his Twitter feed at 6:51 p.m. ET that the extension was a done deal.

"Happy to know where my future is," Hamlin wrote. "Excited for tonight and beyond with my team."

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Bruton Smith: NASCAR Is Show Business, Needs Mandatory Cautions

Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith, whose company also owns Kentucky Speedway, thinks mandatory caution laps are necessary to help bunch up the field and eliminate lengthy green flag periods.

"Call it what you will, but you have got to have caution flags," Smith said during a press conference Saturday. "That creates excitement. You can't just sit there while nothing happens. It ruins the event and it damages our sport. Look at some of your other sports – they have a mandatory timeout period, TV time and all these things that generate excitement. We need to be creative in what we do in NASCAR as well."

Smith is seemingly on a mission to generate more contact and deliver more cautions to a fan base that has been vocal about the lack of breaks thus far this season. When Bristol's new track surface produced more side-by-side racing but fewer cautions, Smith caved to fan pressure and altered the track surface that should eliminate one of his track's three grooves.

That's not entirely possible at intermediate tracks like Kentucky Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, but adding television timeouts and mandatory cautions could generate excitement with a sport that utilizes a double-file restart to spice things up.

"I don't care if you have to throw a caution every 20 laps," Smith added. "It adds to show and, after all, we are in the show business. So if we're in the show business, let's deliver that show. Because, right now, we're not delivering."

Traffic

Smith touched on several other topics on Saturday as well.

The major story entering the Kentucky weekend was last year's traffic debacle – a problem that appears to be a thing of the past. Kentucky Speedway staff has meticulously worked with the State Highway Patrol, with Smith personally swearing that a repeat of last year will "never happen again at Kentucky Speedway."

"We've checked with highway patrol every 15 minutes and traffic is steadily moving into the facility," Smith said. "We've talked to fans that have already arrived and they were very pleased with the changes that we've made. I've been thanked more times today than I have been in my entire life."

And as of 6 p.m. EST, it appears as if all the changes worked. The speedway added 170 acres of parking, hoping to ensure that everyone gets into the facility without fail. As many as 15,000 fans missed last year's race while sitting in traffic.

The heat

The biggest concern today isn't traffic, but rather the heat wave that descended upon the Midwest early this week. Temperatures today peaked at 107 degrees; a situation Kentucky Speedway has tried to negate every step of the way.

"We started preparing for the heat 10 or 12 days ago," Smith said. "One of the most important things we've done was kept the parking lots watered which dropped the surface temperatures from 135 degrees to 85. We've received good feedback on that."

Who wins tonight?

When Smith asked for a more difficult question, a media member asked for a race prediction. His answer: "Jeff Gordon, but you already know that, don't you?"

Smith picked Gordon to win last year's inaugural Quaker State 400 as well. The four-time Series champion finished that race in 10th.

The Quaker State 400 is set to go green at 7:45 p.m. Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch are on the front row. TNT will have flag-to-flag coverage.

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NASCAR At Kentucky: Quaker State 400 Viewer's Guide

Here are some things to watch for tonight's NASCAR Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway:

Storylines

Rule changes

Kentucky represents the first race on a 1.5-mile track since NASCAR implemented rule changes to encourage more side-by-side racing (increasing ground clearance of the side skirts) and make it harder for drivers to get through the corners (limiting how teams can use rear sway bars to make the car turn better). Opinions on whether the rule changes will have the desired effect are mixed, especially when it comes to the sway bars, which is the more significant rule change of the two.

The team this could affect the most is Hendrick Motorsports, which have won five of the past seven races (including the All-Star Race) and a team that was using the loophole in the rulebook to their advantage. However, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both downplayed this, essentially saying they expect to be as competitive as they have been throughout the season.

Others, like Brad Keselowski called this a "game-changer" and expect the mandate on sway bars to dramatically alter and slow down the fleet of Hendrick cars. After 400 miles of racing tonight, we should have a better idea of who's right, who's wrong and who has to play catch-up to the rest of the field.

The heat

When the green flag flies tonight, temperatures are expected to hover right around 95 degrees and the track temp will be at least 15-20 degrees hotter. The heat, combined with a bumpy surface, will make tonight's race a challenge for drivers as the track will have little-to-no grip. If yesterday's first practice is any indication – Brad Keselowski, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose all had issues within the first couple of minutes – expect drivers to have difficulty getting into and out of the corners.

And Jimmie Johnson made a good point Friday when he talked about how the heat affects the crew guys as much – if not more than the drivers – as the high temps easily wear everyone out and frequently leads to sloppy and slow pit stops.

Edwards and Busch need to go

Both Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch were expected to challenge for the championship, and while there is still time for things to change, neither looks anything remotely like a title contender.

Edwards has lacked speed, has just two top-five finishes on the year and would be out of the Chase if it started today. Busch is in the Chase thanks to his win earlier in the year at Richmond, but has finished 17th or worse in his last four starts due to three engine-related issues and an incident last week at Sonoma.

Both drivers need to pull out of their respective tail-spins, and Kentucky offers the perfect place for each to do so. Busch enters as the defending winner and Edwards has a knack for performing well on intermediate tracks and finished fifth in this race a year ago.

Worth Noting

• Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 23rd-place finish last week at Sonoma was far and away his worst result of 2012. But despite the subpar finish, Earnhardt Jr. is still the only driver to have completed every lap this season.

• Surprisingly, this marks the first time since September 2010 at Dover that Jimmie Johnson was fastest in qualifying. On that day, the five-time champ led 191 of a possible 400 laps and easily drove to the victory. Seven of the last 11 times Johnson has qualified P1, he has gone on to score the win.

Favorites

1. Kyle Busch

Last year's Kentucky winner was fastest in opening practice and then backed it up by qualifying second. However, thanks to three engine failures in the last four weeks, there is one giant question mark hanging over Kyle Busch: Can his Toyota engine withstand high temps for 400 miles?

2. Jimmie Johnson

No driver has scored more points over the last six races than tonight's pole-sitter, who in that span has two victories and five top-five finishes.

3. Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski clocked in the 12th- and second-fastest times in Friday's two practice sessions. He did this despite having to go to a backup car just two minutes into opening practice. And he does have a history – albeit short – of doing well at Kentucky, as in last year's running of the Quaker State 400, the Penske driver led on three occasions for a total of 79 laps.

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NASCAR At Kentucky: Austin Dillon's First Nationwide Win Tempered By Post-Race Inspection Failure

Friday was a night of emotions for Austin Dillon, who enjoyed the euphoria of his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory, followed by the depressing news that his No. 3 Chevrolet had failed the height stick test in post-race inspection.

Dillon also took over the series lead from Richard Childress Racing teammate Elliott Sadler, but his slim two-point advantage is in jeopardy in the face of a possible NASCAR penalty because the rear of his car was deemed too low.

"I've never seen Austin so high and so low at the same time," team owner Richard Childress, Dillon's grandfather, said Saturday afternoon in the Sprint Cup garage. "It was like he'd been shot."

Dillon won the Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway by 9.828 seconds over Kurt Busch. Kentucky is a bumpy track, and running laps around the undulating surface can affect the ride heights of the cars. That's exactly what Childress believes happened to Dillon on Friday night.

"We use 1,200-pound springs to keep the back end up," Childress said. "A rear jack bolt worked its way back on a rough track. It was certainly nothing intentional -- and it certainly wasn't an advantage."

Dillon likely will have to wait until early next week to learn the price of the infraction. NASCAR typically assesses penalties on Tuesday after the weekly competition meeting.

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NASCAR At Kentucky 2012: Start Time, Starting Lineup, Live Streaming, TV/Radio Schedule And More

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 today's race for you below.

What time does the race start Saturday? Quaker State exec Steve Reindl will give the command to fire engines at 7:37 p.m. Eastern time (actually scheduled for 30 seconds past 7:37, but we'll round down). After a few pace laps, the green flag will wave at 7:45 p.m. (again, actually 7:45:30, but we'll round down so you don't miss anything). So if you want to skip the pre-race show and just tune in for the race, turn on your TV set at 7:45 p.m. Eastern.

Race name/distance: The Quaker State 400 is a 267-lap race around the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway for a total of 400.5 miles. We're guessing the "Quaker State 400.5" doesn't sound as good though, so it's called the Quaker State 400 instead. This is Kentucky Speedway's second-ever Sprint Cup Series race.

TV, radio and live streaming: The race can be seen on TNT. This is TNT's fourth of six broadcasts this summer before handing the reins to ESPN for the rest of the season. There IS live streaming of the race today, which can be found at NASCAR.com's "RaceBuddy" site. If you'll be away from your computer and TV, check the Performance Racing Network's web site for a list of affiliate radio stations in your area.

*** NOTE: If you're out and about and can't watch the race, make sure to follow me (@jeff_gluck) on Twitter. I'll be tweeting updates about the event. ***

National anthem: Actress/singer Laura Bell Bundy will sing the anthem, and this isn't her first NASCAR experience. Last year, Bundy performed the anthem for the Budweiser Shootout.

Tickets: Unlike last year, when Kentucky's inaugural race was a sellout (and traffic nightmare), ticket sales for this year's race haven't been as strong. If you're looking to make a last-minute trip, you should be OK with purchasing tickets at the door.

Weather: The unofficial NASCAR weatherman, Brian Neudorff, says Saturday's weather will be a SCORCHER. Much like the rest of the Southeast, Kentucky is going through a heat wave. Neudorff warns of excessive heat and says fans should wear light clothing and drink plenty of water.

Last time: One year ago, Kyle Busch won the inaugural Cup race at Kentucky. That was overshadowed, though, by the traffic nightmare outside the track in which thousands of fans never even made it to the race or were turned away due to lack of parking.

Starting lineup for Saturday's NASCAR race at Kentucky:

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Kevin Harvick
  5. Ryan Newman
  6. Clint Bowyer
  7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  8. Brad Keselowski
  9. Jeff Gordon
  10. Martin Truex Jr.
  11. Greg Biffle
  12. Marcos Ambrose
  13. Aric Almirola
  14. Kurt Busch
  15. Paul Menard
  16. AJ Allmendinger
  17. Jamie McMurray
  18. Joey Logano
  19. Kasey Kahne
  20. Matt Kenseth
  21. Casey Mears
  22. Tony Stewart
  23. Landon Cassill
  24. Scott Speed
  25. Carl Edwards
  26. Regan Smith
  27. Joe Nemechek
  28. Bobby Labonte
  29. Jeff Burton
  30. Josh Wise
  31. Juan Pablo Montoya
  32. David Stremme
  33. David Ragan
  34. Travis Kvapil
  35. Michael McDowell
  36. Scott Riggs
  37. Mike Bliss
  38. David Reutimann
  39. Michael Waltrip
  40. David Gilliland
  41. Ken Schrader
  42. Dave Blaney
  43. Stephen Leicht
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NASCAR Kentucky Starting Lineup 2012: Jimmie Johnson Leads Qualifying

At a track that used to eat up his race cars, Jimmie Johnson was fastest of the fast in Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying session at Kentucky Speedway.

The 43rd of 44 drivers to make a timed run, Johnson toured the 1.5-mile speedway in 29.700 seconds (181.818 mph) to win the pole for Sunday's Quaker State 400, the second Cup race at Kentucky. Johnson claimed his first Coors Light pole award since Sept. 26, 2010 at Dover and the 26th of his career.

Kyle Busch (181.421 mph) qualified second, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin (181.147 mph). Kevin Harvick will start fourth after a lap at 180.367 mph, one spot ahead of Ryan Newman (180.337 mph).

"It was a good lap -- qualifying has not been our strong suit in the last couple of years," Johnson said. "I'm very happy to get this pole today. My Chevy's bad fast, and I'm looking forward to going racing.

"I've had a lot of crashes here over the years. We used to test here a lot back in the day, and Turns 3 and 4 have taken quite a few (No.) 48 race cars from us. To run well last year (third at Kentucky) was really good for me. I came back with a lot of confidence. Conditions earlier today were so slick that it took a while to get the feeling I was looking for, but I think we're on the right track now."

Series leader Matt Kenseth earned the 20th starting position. Clint Bowyer, last week's winner at Sonoma, will take the green flag from the sixth position, one position better than that of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Violent winds interrupted the session for 17 minutes after 20 cars had made qualifying attempts. After the wind subsided, drivers began running significantly quicker laps on a cooler track. Tony Stewart, the first driver to make a run after the delay, was more than a full mile per hour faster than the top qualifier before the wind storm, Scott Speed.

"My motor home was swaying so hard, I thought somebody had run into me in the motor home lot," said Johnson, who took refuge in his coach during the storm.

As qualified progressed, speeds continued to escalate, as the fastest cars in Friday's opening practice took their turns in inverse order, slower to faster. Greg Biffle, the 25th driver to attempt qualifying, toured the 1.5-mile track in 30.041 seconds (179.754 mph), but his reign at the top of the chart was short-lived.

Jeff Gordon, the 29th qualifier, was the first to run a sub-30-second lap (29.994 seconds) and the first to top 180 mph (180.036 mph), but Newman soon knocked him off the provisional pole with a lap at 180.337 mph.

J.J. Yeley and Mike Skinner failed to make the 43-car field.

Here's the starting lineup for Saturday night's Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway:

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Kevin Harvick
  5. Ryan Newman
  6. Clint Bowyer
  7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  8. Brad Keselowski
  9. Jeff Gordon
  10. Martin Truex Jr.
  11. Greg Biffle
  12. Marcos Ambrose
  13. Aric Almirola
  14. Kurt Busch
  15. Paul Menard
  16. AJ Allmendinger
  17. Jamie McMurray
  18. Joey Logano
  19. Kasey Kahne
  20. Matt Kenseth
  21. Casey Mears
  22. Tony Stewart
  23. Landon Cassill
  24. Scott Speed
  25. Carl Edwards
  26. Regan Smith
  27. Joe Nemechek
  28. Bobby Labonte
  29. Jeff Burton
  30. Josh Wise
  31. Juan Pablo Montoya
  32. David Stremme
  33. David Ragan
  34. Travis Kvapil
  35. Michael McDowell
  36. Scott Riggs
  37. Mike Bliss
  38. David Reutimann
  39. Michael Waltrip
  40. David Gilliland
  41. Ken Schrader
  42. Dave Blaney
  43. Stephen Leicht
DNQ: JJ Yeley, Mike Skinner.
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Brad Keselowski, Juan Pablo Montoya Clash In NASCAR Kentucky Practice

In scorching hot weather at Kentucky, Juan Pablo Montoya lit Brad Keselowski's fuse in Friday's first practice session at Kentucky Speedway, and Keselowski retaliated in Happy Hour.

Contact between Montoya's Chevrolet and Keselowski's Dodge in the first session sent Keselowski's car into the outside wall, forcing the Penske racing driver to a backup car. In a SPEED interview after the incident, Montoya explained the sequence of events from his point of view.

"I came out of the pits," Montoya said. "They told me he had a big run. I put my hand out to wave at him. I started turning and running high. I think he thought he'd cleared me, and he was probably going to run high and ran straight into me. We didn't even do a lap. I wasn't even up to speed.

"I was really shocked. I saw him coming, I waved, I saw him beside me. I left two grooves on the bottom and he still hit me. It's just what it is."

Keselowski made his presence felt in the second practice session, giving Montoya a succession of taps on the left-rear quarter panel as the cars ran through Turns 3 and 4. Montoya took his No. 42 Chevy to the garage for repairs of cosmetic damage.

Of his own accord, Keselowski paid a visit to the NASCAR hauler between Happy Hour and qualifying for Friday night's Nationwide race, ostensibly to head off an escalation of the conflict. He declined to discuss what was said in the hauler.

"I'm looking forward," Keselowski said when asked to describe the incidents with Montoya. "I've got to go qualify my car, I've got to go make it race, so I don't have time to worry about that."

To a question as to whether NASCAR had given him advice, Keselowski would only say, "Yes, they did. I'll leave it between them and me."

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NASCAR At Kentucky 2012: What's Up With Kyle Busch?

Just when it seemed things were headed in the right direction for Kyle Busch, everything fell apart.

Busch told reporters Friday at Kentucky Speedway his string of misfortune has been "frustrating beyond belief" and could only hope his luck would change soon.

After Busch's slow start to the 2012 NASCAR season, which saw him record only two top-10 finishes in the first seven races, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver rattled off five straight top-10s – including a win at Richmond.

It all was back on the right track for Busch, and the driver climbed from 13th to eighth in the Sprint Cup Series point standings.

Then his engines developed a nasty habit of blowing up before the end of the race. Boom, boom, boom. Just like that, three straight motor problems dropped Busch to 12th in points – which is where he remains with 10 races to go until the Chase field is set.

The engine failures have been "disheartening" and have "set us back a little bit," Busch said. JGR switched from in-house motors to Toyota Racing Development motors at the end of last season.

"Those guys need to work a little bit more and get going on the same page as the rest of us," Busch said.

He hasn't been the only TRD-powered driver with problems. Mark Martin has had three blown engines in 12 starts this season, most recently at Michigan; Clint Bowyer had engine trouble at Pocono but nursed it until the end of the race.

"Overall, I feel they've been doing a good job," Busch said. "We've been gaining power, and any time you gain power, you sacrifice a little durability. You have to take one with the other."

Busch said he's encouraged by his No. 18 team's ability to show speed, but said it's just a matter of finishing the races. With another win or a few top-five finishes, Busch could easily find himself back in a Chase spot.

He hopes a turnaround happens soon, he said, because "I haven't been this far back in a long time."

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NASCAR At Kentucky: Jack Roush 'Surprised' At Matt Kenseth's Decision To Leave

Losing a NASCAR driver of Matt Kenseth's stature would be a significant blow to any team, and Jack Roush made no bones about that harsh reality when he spoke with the media Friday at Kentucky Speedway.

But Roush apparently didn't even see Kenseth's departure coming.

"I will say that I was as surprised as most of you must have been when I learned that he would not be signing with us to go forward," Roush said. "It was a surprise and I had no idea that we were at that point."

Roush even went as far to say that if he hadn't been so focused on the technical side of his operation, he doesn't think Kenseth would have ever agreed to leave what has essentially been the only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team he's ever driven for.

In other words, Roush apparently felt Kenseth's concerns could have been easily resolved if the team owner knew the issues existed – whatever those may have been (neither he nor Kenseth is saying). It's worth noting Roush doesn't include the business side among his chief responsibilities.

"If I had been taking care of the business side of the business as hard as I tried to take care of the technical side, I might have been able to stop that," Roush said.

The team owner wouldn't get specific as to why Kenseth chose to leave, but he did say not being able to find a full-time sponsor for the No. 17 car played no part in the decision. And despite not having primary sponsorship for Kenseth, Roush was fully committed to running and funding the 17 team out of his own pocket if that was what it took.

"Certainly, there was not a sponsorship reason why Matt's future with Roush Fenway was in doubt, before or during negotiations," Roush said.

While Roush wouldn't reveal where Kenseth is headed (likely Joe Gibbs Racing), he did say the driver will be "moving to the dark side." In Roush's mind, that might mean a Toyota-backed team.

Kenseth will certainly be missed at RFR, as he was instrumental in the continued prosperity the three-car team has experienced since Roush brought him aboard fulltime prior to the 2000 season. After all, it was Kenseth who delivered Roush his first Sprint Cup championship and is the only RFR driver to have won the Daytona 500.

But even amid the disbelief, it isn't all doom and gloom for Roush Fenway Racing, as there is optimism as to what Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is going to bring to the team. Roush has great experience with over the years seeing veteran drivers depart the organization and then replacing them with a young and talented up-and-comer who is just biting at the chance to drive for a team with resources of RFR.

"We have had a lot of success with young drivers that were not established and have not made it our habit to go out and try to court somebody else's driver to see if we could improve our prospects by gaining somebody else's loss," Roush said.

While no one will confuse Stenhouse Jr. for the 2003 Sprint Cup champion at this point, there is no doubt that Stenhouse Jr. possesses a vast amount of talent and should eventually have success in Cup. The consensus among RFR is that in the long run, Stenhouse Jr.'s promotion to a Cup ride could prove big dividends down the road for the entire team.

"I think that he can drive a race car as well and as aggressively as anyone I have ever raced against," Carl Edwards said Friday. "... I think he can bring a lot to the whole Cup program with a lot of new energy and really he is just a fun guy to be around. I think it will be a good time."

In other Roush-related news, the team owner said Stenhouse Jr. is likely to drive a No. 17 car next season – not a No. 6 – and would be teamed with crew chief Jimmy Fennig, who is Kenseth's current crew chief.

Trevor Bayne will likely run a full-time Nationwide Series effort for Roush in 2013 and could potentially be paired with current Stenhouse Jr. crew chief Mike Kelley.

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NASCAR At Kentucky 2012: Matt Kenseth Hoping To Avoid Distractions

Matt Kenseth remained mum concerning his future on Friday morning, a few days after announcing his departure from Roush Fenway Racing.

Kenseth entered the weekend as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leader and is hoping to avoid any distractions leading into the season's second half. Kenseth has one win and is 117 points ahead of 11th-place Carl Edwards. Another victory would put Kenseth in a commanding spot of at least a wild card berth.

Despite the success, Kenseth has had quite the "stressful season." He entered the season short on sponsorship and Jack Roush partially financed the team out of pocket.

"It has been really stressful to be honest with you, starting in the offseason leading into the sponsorship search and all that," Kenseth said. "That was relieved a little bit by signing Best Buy and Fifth Third (Bank), but getting to this point in the season was definitely stressful not knowing 100 percent what I was going to do."

Kenseth has finally reached a point where he is secure, for the rest of this season and for the foreseeable future. He has signed with a new team for next season (likely Joe Gibbs Racing), and Kenseth couldn't be in a better spot to win his second Sprint Cup Series championship – assuming he can get past the speculation and scrutiny of where he ends up.

"This stuff is only a distraction if we let it become one," Kenseth said. "I think it is totally up to me and the race team with how we handle this going forward. I think this will be the toughest weekend and after that I think things will settle down and we will be just fine for the rest of the year."

And as for the timetable on the 2013 announcement?

"Hopefully it will be sooner than later," Kenseth said. "That ball is not in my court, unfortunately. We are trying to get that done as soon as possible just so it is out there and we can go on. Everyone kind of has their ideas and half the story is out there, but hopefully we can get it out there and just go on."

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NASCAR At Kentucky 2012: For Dale Earnhardt Jr., What's Next?

After a win at Michigan and a hiccup at Sonoma, Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants a solid run at Kentucky Speedway to prove to himself and his team that this NASCAR season is different than the rest.

Earnhardt Jr. said he typically has a good start to the year, struggles in the summer and then picks up his performance again toward the end of the season. But with this being his best and most consistent Sprint Cup Series season ever so far, the Hendrick Motorsports driver doesn't want to experience a summer letdown this time.

"I'll be surprised if we don't run competitive and have a top-10 car at the least this weekend," he told reporters Friday at Kentucky. "If we don't have that kind of a competitive car, I'll be a little disappointed and concerned about where we're headed and what we're doing."

Last season, Earnhardt Jr. finished 30th at Kentucky after a blown tire capped off what had already been a disappointing night. He could never find speed or gain the track position he needed in that race, and was subdued in a post-race interview afterward.

"I didn't run as well as I thought I would here last year, and I don't really know exactly why," he said. "I think we're better this year."

This summer has obviously been better than usual for Earnhardt Jr. After last season's Pocono race, the driver was within 10 points of the Sprint Cup Series lead but then plummeted to eighth in the standings over the next four races. This year, the driver's Michigan win has allowed him to maintain a comfortable position inside the Chase despite not running how he wanted to at Sonoma.

Earnhardt Jr. said the No. 88 team evaluates itself after every race, focusing on "whether what we're doing is working and the path we're headed on is the right path."

"I feel like we just need to maintain our course," he said. "It's been a pretty good summer so far. If we can keep that going, I'm going to be really excited for the rest of the season."

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NASCAR At Kentucky 2012: Clint Bowyer Recalls Lame Duck Status

Last season, Clint Bowyer found himself in a situation similar to the one Matt Kenseth is about to experience: A lame-duck status with his race team.

Bowyer announced before the season ended he was leaving Richard Childress Racing for Michael Waltrip Racing, and the driver said it was difficult to keep his team together after that. Last week, Kenseth announced he would part ways with Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the season.

"It was catastrophic for me," Bowyer said of his lame-duck status last year. "It was hard to keep everybody going. Everybody sees the end of the road, the light at the end of the tunnel is near. For me, it was very hard to keep that momentum going. Everybody was kind of wanting to give up on the season and it get over with."

Bowyer, though, noted his situation was different from Kenseth's in one important aspect: Bowyer's team wasn't in the Chase last year and Kenseth is leading the points this year.

"Matt is a champion and he'll see this thing through the end," Bowyer said of Kenseth's title chances. "They'll be a team that is competing for the championship. That would just be pretty awesome to have a guy that's leaving race for a championship. That would be a good story for you guys."

Kenseth, for the record, said he doesn't feel his lame-duck status will take away from the team's prospects of winning the championship.

"It's only a distraction if we let it," Kenseth said Friday.

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NASCAR At Kentucky: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Excited For Sprint Cup Opportunity

Just days after being named by Roush Fenway Racing as Matt Kenseth’s replacement, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. met with the media Thursday at Kentucky Speedway and said he "didn't really realize (the move) was going to be that big."

“I thought that was pretty cool seeing everything on Twitter and everybody texting me," Stenhouse said. "It was like I won a race again with people texting me and things like that.

“It is a great opportunity. I was kind of shocked when I heard the news. I thought for sure that we would be a fourth car and definitely didn’t see Matt going anywhere.”

The original plan when Stenhouse signed on with Roush Fenway Racing four years ago was for him to be in the Sprint Cup Series by 2014 – even though there was some talk this offseason of accelerating those plans after he rolled to last year’s Nationwide Series championship. But when sponsorship couldn’t be found, the decision was made to keep Stenhouse Jr. in NASCAR’s number two series for another year.

However, with Kenseth’s sudden announcement an opportunity has been created and, as such, Stenhouse Jr. will be a contender for Rookie of the Year in 2013 as the handpicked successor to the man who won RFR’s first Sprint Cup championship.

“I am not sure what all happened,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I just got the call Thursday that said we were going to run and Matt was not coming back. I have no idea how it went down. I just got a phone call and never would have expected that.”

What is expected is that expectations will be high for Stenhouse Jr. during his rookie campaign. But as Stenhouse Jr. himself acknowledged Thursday, that’s to be expected when you race for a team like RFR.

“I think the expectations are high anyway,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “Being with an organization like Roush Fenway Racing who has been winning for 25 years I don’t think a number really decides how much pressure there is. I put a lot of pressure on myself each week and being in equipment that can win and run upfront there is going to be a lot of pressure. I think I am going to put a lot of pressure on myself more than anybody.”

For now, the former sprint car driver is just letting the news sink in as he prepares for Friday’s Feed the Children 300 Nationwide Series race.

“It feels great,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I rode up here with Mom and Dad in the motor home and Dad asked me, ‘What do you think?’ I try not to let it get too big right now. I want to stay focused and have to stay humbled and keep going. You can’t look to far ahead but I feel great about the opportunity.”

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NASCAR Kentucky Truck Race Results: James Buescher Wins

Streaking away from Ty Dillon and Brad Keselowski after a restart with 36 laps left, James Buescher recorded his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in Thursday night's UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway.

Keselowski passed Dillon with two laps left to run second, 3.805 seconds behind Buescher. Dillon came home third, followed by pole-sitter Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters, who grabbed the series lead from Justin Lofton.

Johnny Sauter recovered from a pit road penalty to finish sixth, followed by Joey Coulter, Jason Leffler, Ron Hornaday Jr. and 19-year-old Kyle Larson, who was making his series debut.

A three-car wreck on Lap 69, involving two-time series champ Todd Bodine, Lofton and last week's Nationwide Series winner Nelson Piquet Jr. put Lofton's points lead in peril.

With a strong run to the inside in Turn 1, Bodine dived beneath Lofton, broke loose and knocked Lofton's truck into the Chevrolet of Piquet, who slammed into the outside wall. Bodine blamed Lofton for not giving him enough room.

"I thought Justin was blowing up," Bodine said. "I caught him so fast -- I didn't know what was going on, if he got loose off of (Turn) 4 or what. I caught him so fast, thought he was blowing up, so I went under him, and, obviously, he wasn't blowing up . . .

"He's got plenty of room outside -- he's got to learn to give some space here. When you get that close and that tight on somebody, you're just taking all their air, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it."

Both Bodine and Piquet retired from the race at that point, but Lofton was able to continue. Taking a wave-around under the sixth caution -- called on lap 102 because of Tim George Jr.'s spin into the Turn 2 wall -- Lofton regained a lap lost during repairs to his truck and salvaged a 14th-place finish to limit his damage in the standings.

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Impact Of New NASCAR Sway Bar Rule Unclear Heading Into Kentucky Weekend

NASCAR's rule changes concerning the rear sway bars of Sprint Cup Series cars are a significant story to watch heading into this weekend's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

The sway bar rule has the potential to impact the performance of teams which had been making advances in that area. Those teams, which include Hendrick Motorsports, had set up the sway bar at an angle that would skew the rear ends and helped the cars turn better in the corner.

NASCAR frowns upon skewed rear ends because it makes the cars look like they're "crab-walking" down the straightaways. In 2008, officials implemented another in-season rule change to try and restrict the angle of the rear-end housing (remember Sam Hornish Jr.'s Charlotte car that year?).

Starting at Kentucky, the sway bar arms must be perpendicular to the ground. Therefore, the advantage some teams gained in making the cars turn might be taken away. The key word is "might," because it's unclear to everyone just exactly how big of an advantage it was.

"Very curious to see how that resets the competition from a speed platform," Brad Keselowski said Thursday. "... I think it's going to be a major game-changer on who is fast and who is competitive and who is not."

Hendrick's setups were not "illegal" during its recent hot streak, when it won five of six events (including the All-Star Race) prior to Sonoma. But the team had creatively found something with the sway bars that worked within the rules, and other teams began to notice and follow suit.

During the recent Michigan race won by Hendrick's Dale Earnhardt Jr., the Richard Childress Racing cars each used the angled sway bar as part of their setups for the first time (Stewart-Haas Racing cars, which share setup information with Hendrick, were rumored to be using it as well).

"I think everybody has caught on to what they were doing with the bars...and everybody was getting ready to venture down that road and spend a lot of time (in that area)," RCR's Kevin Harvick said last week. "There is some significant speed in that particular package."

Keselowski estimated "half of the field" was using the angled sway bars and said those cars will "slow down quite a bit" without it.

"It was certainly worth some speed," said Keselowski, whose Penske Racing team was not working in that area. "Those teams deserve the credit for develop those parts and making them work. NASCAR felt like they were outside the intent of the rules, obviously, by creating a rule specifically to stop it.

"They didn't do anything illegal, they just took advantage of the rules as they stand and found some performance."

So what kind of impact will the new rule really have for cars like Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88? A handful of drivers polled via text message on Thursday generated opinions ranging from minimal to wait-and-see, though none predicted a dramatic slowdown for Hendrick's cars.

In other news, the Cup teams will also lose some aerodynamic grip this week thanks to another NASCAR rule change concerning the length of the side skirts. But most people in the garage feel that rule change will have a minimal impact compared to the sway bar change.

NASCAR is changing the side skirt length in an effort to promote more side-by-side racing (the thought being that if cars depend less on aero devices, it will improve the racing).

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Thoughts On Kentucky Speedway NASCAR Traffic Situation, One Year Later

At Kentucky Speedway's inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race last year, I arrived at the track eight hours early. I sat in traffic for about 45 minutes – all from the exit ramp to the track entrance.

I was one of the lucky ones. Arriving from the south (Louisville area instead of Cincinnati), the traffic getting to the exit wasn't nearly as bad.

As the day went on, the traffic got worse and worse. Some fans ultimately gave up and left without seeing the race; others finally made it but were turned away from the parking lots because they were full. Overall, thousands of ticket-holders never witnessed a single lap.

Track owner Bruton Smith had predicted a Carmageddon and said the traffic would be nightmarish. He was right. But one year later, the way it all went down still bothers me.

I can't shake the feeling Smith was playing up the traffic situation to get support from the state of Kentucky – money to help make infrastructure improvements at and around the track. And that's ultimately what happened.

There are new parking lots, a wider highway, a new pedestrian tunnel and a new traffic pattern which should make the entire fan experience much better.

But the cost is greater than a financial one. Kentucky Speedway and Smith hurt their credibility with fans thanks to the traffic fiasco, and I've met fans who are still furious with their experience and have vowed never to return.

Smith kept blaming the two-lane highway last year, but that's hard to accept as a valid explanation because of places like the Smith-owned New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which doesn't even have a highway leading to it and gets the traffic parked just fine.

The problem at Kentucky seemed to be the lack of direction getting into the lots and the lack of overall parking – things Smith knew about.

When Smith made his pre-traffic remarks last year, it almost felt like he wouldn't mind some sort of traffic mess in order to get the attention of state officials (and thus money for improvements). He probably didn't think the traffic would be that bad; but he knew it would be a significant jam-up.

Could Carmageddon have been avoided with a better plan? The traffic might still have been significant, but it wouldn't have been awful to such a great degree. Last year seems to have been a miscalculation on the part of Smith and Kentucky Speedway.

That said, it's hard to be enthusiastic about the changes. I can relate to why some fans still feel bitter over last year, and why others are taking a wait-and-see approach to the improvements.

Ultimately, Kentucky and Smith got the state help they wanted because of Carmageddon. Was it worth it? It's too early to say.

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