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Scouting the inaugural Quaker State 400
by Matt Taliaferro
Quaker State 400
Location: Sparta, Ky.
Specs: 1.5-mile tri-oval; Banking/Turns: 14°; Banking/Tri-oval: 8°; Banking/Backstretch: 4°
Race Length: 400 miles/267 laps
2010 Winners: None (Inaugural Cup race)
From the Spotter’s Stand
It was a long and winding road with speed bumps and yield signs at every turn, but Kentucky Speedway finally has a spot on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule.
The 1.5-mile track is centrally located in Sparta, Ky. — roughly halfway between Louisville and Cincinnati — and is the first new track added to the Cup circuit since Chicagoland and Kansas in 2001.
“Racing fans, I don’t think you’ll find an area of the United States that is more ready than this one is,” said Speedway Motorsports CEO and Kentucky Speedway owner Bruton Smith, during his official announcement. “Go back and look at how many fans we’ve had here for Nationwide, Trucks, and you’ll see what we can do.”
Since opening in 2000, Kentucky Speedway has an excellent track record and a strong fan base, drawing as many as 70,000 for Nationwide and Truck events.
A $40 million expansion is underway to prepare for the July 9 Cup race. The ambitious plan calls for an increased capacity to an estimated 116,000 as well as across-the-board upgrades that will include moving pit road closer to both the track and stands. But after the facility fought to secure a Cup race for a solid decade, it will be worth every penny once the green flag finally drops on the 400-mile race this summer.
In 2005, track co-founder Jerry Carroll sued NASCAR for violation of antitrust laws in an effort to acquire a Cup race for Kentucky Speedway — a date he claims was promised him by the France family. When the case was thrown out in 2008, Carroll sold the tri-oval track to Smith, whose company also owns seven other tracks on the Cup schedule. After further legal wrangling, Smith moved an existing date from Atlanta Motor Speedway to Kentucky, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Crew Chief’s Take
“Normally when a new track comes onto the circuit it takes a while to figure out, but Kentucky shouldn’t be that much of an unknown for two reasons: One, because it’s built in the classic ‘cookie cutter’ mode where aero and downforce are keys. And two, because there are plenty of notes available from the Nationwide races. The organizations that run full Nationwide teams — Gibbs, Roush and Childress through Harvick’s operation — will be the ones that start with a leg up. That said, it won’t take the others to long to figure out the nuances.”
Looking at Checkers: It’s hard not to lean towards Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards due to their experience in the Nationwide Series.
Pretty Solid Pick: Joey Logano has three straight NNS wins here. We’ll see if it translates.
Good Sleeper Pick: Not really a sleeper, but the 48 team usually adapts quicker than most.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: See the Insider Tip and act accordingly.
Insider Tip: It’s your typical 1.5-mile track. Look to Kansas and Chicago for an accurate race preview.
Classic Moments at Kentucky
It’s an inauspicious start for NASCAR at the sparkling new Kentucky Speedway on June 17, 2000.
Bryan Reffner leads the 36-truck field to green, but a wreck on the first lap quickly slows the field. Greg Biffle battles Reffner throughout the race, leading 53 laps to Reffner’s 50.
A lengthy rain delay halts the action, forcing ESPN to drop its coverage of the event and resume programming.
Kurt Busch, in his rookie campaign, leads 12 laps but crashes hard with 44 laps remaining, and it’s his Roush Racing teammate, Biffle, whose No. 50 Grainger Ford is dialed in down the stretch, as he leads the final 42 laps to win.
Biffle goes on to win the Trucks Series title, while Busch finishes second.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro