Sparta, KY (Sports Network) - Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, July
9. Race: Quaker State 400. Site: Kentucky Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval.
Start time: 7:30 p.m. (et). Laps: 267. Miles: 400. Television: TNT. Radio:
Performance Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
The Sprint Cup Series returns to the "Bluegrass State" for the first time in
57 years this weekend. After more than a decade of requesting a Sprint Cup
date, Kentucky Speedway was added to the 2011 series schedule last year. The
1.5-mile track, located roughly 40 miles south of downtown Cincinnati, will
host its first race in NASCAR's premier series on Saturday night.
Nearly a year ago, Bruton Smith, the chairman and chief executive officer of
Speedway Motorsports Inc., the parent company of Kentucky Speedway, announced
the track would host a 400-mile nighttime Sprint Cup race in 2011. SMI moved
its spring race at Atlanta Motor Speedway to Kentucky. Atlanta will host only
one Cup event, which will take place on Labor Day Weekend.
SMI bought the Kentucky track in 2008.
The track opened in 2000, with the Camping World Truck Series competing here
each year since then. The Nationwide Series has been racing at Kentucky each
season since 2001.
Nationwide and Camping World Trucks are also running at Kentucky this week.
The trucks will race here again on October 1.
Kentucky becomes the first track added to the Cup schedule since Chicagoland
Speedway and Kansas Speedway - both 1.5 miles in length -- in 2001.
The State of Kentucky has hosted only one Cup race up until this point. The
series ran at Corbin Speedway -- a half-mile dirt track in Corbin, KY -- on
August 29, 1954. Lee Petty won that event, while Hershel McGriff finished
second. They were the only drivers who finished on the lead lap.
Since Kentucky is an inaugural race, Sprint Cup teams will get an extra day of
practice at this track on Thursday.
"It could take two or three laps, or it could take 100 before you get
comfortable on the track," said Hendrick Motorsports driver and four-time Cup
champion Jeff Gordon. "We've got a lot of track time scheduled for Thursday,
so that should give us a good opportunity to get close (with the setup).
"There are a lot of unknowns like where you can push the limits, where your
car is going to handle the best and what characteristics the track will have
as the race goes on."
NASCAR is also conducting its first test of electronic fuel injected cars at
Kentucky. The sanctioning body announced earlier this year that Sprint Cup
cars will use electronic fuel injection in place of carburetors starting in
2012. All four manufacturers -- Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota -- from
various teams are expected to participate.
Kentucky will not be a complete unknown for Sprint Cup drivers. Many of them
have competed in past Nationwide and/or truck races at this track, while some
have participated in previous test sessions here.
"I'd say every one of us has been there in some way, shape or form," Kevin
Harvick said. "Some of the guys may not have raced there, but I know for me,
when I first raced there was in 2001. Through the years, there has been a lot
of testing that has taken place at that particular racetrack. I think it's a
racetrack everyone is pretty familiar with, but not familiar with this new-
style car there, as everything was probably done with the old car. So it'll
still be a challenge for sure."
Harvick has competed in two Nationwide races at Kentucky. He won the series'
inaugural race here in 2001.
Kyle Busch has led at least one lap in all four of his Nationwide races at
Kentucky and both of his truck events at this track. Busch won the 2004
Nationwide race here.
Carl Edwards is perhaps the most experienced driver at Kentucky, competing in
six Nationwide races and three truck events. He has won a race in each of
those series at this track.
"The track has so many bumps and different lines you can run that I think it
will be a lot better racing than we see at a lot of these 1.5-mile
racetracks," Edwards said. "I think it will be a great race and one that
people look at and think that anybody can win it. I think we will have more
passing there because of the bumps, and you go through turns one and two, and
there are places with huge bumps and also really smooth lines."
Forty-eight teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Quaker State 400.
The Sports Network