Kentucky Speedway – Quaker State 400 Preview
Posted by: Candice Corrigan, follow @candicecorrigan
June 29, 2012
Date: Saturday, June 30, 2012
Location: Kentucky Speedway—Sparta, Ky.
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Distance: 267 laps/400.5 miles
Broadcast: TV- TNT with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET
Radio: Performance Racing Network (PRN) or Sirius XM Channel 90
Last year’s inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekend at Kentucky Speedway had its share of trials, tribulations and traffic. This time around, 104- degree temperatures, 70 mph wind gusts and overheated drivers have been some of the hot topics thus far.
In Sprint Cup practice on Friday, the buzzword was heat. The hundred-plus degree air temperatures made for track temperatures into the scorching range. Drivers have already seen the effects of the heat as their cars began sliding as soon as they took the track this afternoon. Turn two seemed to be the tricky spot in practice and qualifying on Friday as many drivers got loose and spun here.
If precedence does mean anything, Jimmie Johnson has a good shot at the win this weekend. Kyle Busch started and won from the pole last year in the first Sprint Cup race at Kentucky. Johnson, who has not won a pole since 2010, recognized the advantage of starting up front after capturing the pole this evening.
“It really is the name of the game wherever we go,” said Johnson. “Typically the higher the speeds, the more important that track position is.”
Because this is only the second Sprint Cup race at Kentucky, trends and statistics only give a glimpse into race performance. Experience with the track and conditioning could make all the difference this weekend. Brad Keselowski is racing in all three national series events this weekend at Kentucky to gather experience and familiarity with the racing surface.
Keselowski qualified eighth Friday afternoon in a back-up car after an earlier run-in with Juan Pablo Montoya. Keselowski later bumped Montoya during practice and was called to the NASCAR trailer to speak with officials about the incident.
Other drivers hoping to get ahead in experience this weekend include Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, who are both doing double duty in the Nationwide and Cup series’ races.
Hamlin went out late in the session to qualify third for Saturday’s Quaker State 400. By this time, the temperature had dropped significantly as a front moved in and brought extreme winds to the track.
At this point in the on-track action, the focus shifted from the heat to the tornado-like winds picking up debris around the track.
“I thought somebody was actually walking on top of the motorhome,” said Hamlin. “I saw the canopy fly into the grandstands from over in turn four, so it was pretty exciting.”
Injuries were minimal, but did include a Nationwide series crew member. Brad Sweet’s fuel man was prevented from participating in the Nationwide event tonight because of injuries sustained during the extreme winds.
Winds are not expected to cause any additional dilemmas this weekend but drivers, teams and fans will have to fight to stay hydrated as temperatures are predicted to reach over 100 degrees all weekend.
Will the hot temperatures translate to escalated tempers at Kentucky this weekend? The track’s character and driver character could be equally important on Saturday night at Kentucky.