SPARTA, KY -- Winston Cup drivers, Michael Waltrip, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, and Stacy Compton were testing their cars at Kentucky Speedway today and took some time to talk with the local and national media gathered for a preview of the NASCAR...
SPARTA, KY -- Winston Cup drivers, Michael Waltrip, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, and Stacy Compton were testing their cars at Kentucky Speedway today and took some time to talk with the local and national media gathered for a preview of the NASCAR Busch series race scheduled for the 1.5-mile oval here on June 15th. Also on hand were Busch Grand National Series drivers Scott Riggs and Larry Foyt.
While Waltrip and Jarrett had planned to test at Kentucky today, Labonte's and Compton's teams transferred here from their planned test at Michigan International Speedway when rain made running there impossible. Foyt and Riggs attended without their teams and joined the Winston Cup drivers to answer questions and to help the speedway promote the upcoming Kroger 300 race.
Riggs, who won Kentucky's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race last summer, comes in as the leader of the Busch series Rookie of the Year points and second in the overall series driver standings behind leader Jack Sprague. Riggs' team, ppc Racing, won the 2000 Busch Grand National Championship and finished second in the series last year, so Riggs is expected to continue to challenge for the championship this year and also has high hopes for the 2002 Kentucky race win.
Foyt, son of racing legend A.J. Foyt, Jr., is in his second season of Busch series racing, finishing 22nd in series points in 2001. Foyt took over as team manager of his team and of the Foyt family's Winston Cup team (both owned by his father) this year. After 14 Busch races this year, he is 16th in series points and has two top-ten finishes.
Compton, who drives for the Foyt's Winston Cup team, will also race at Kentucky for the ST Motorsports team, despite having a Cup race scheduled at Michigan on the same weekend. Compton is competing full-time in both series this season and will make the short flight back and forth between the two raceways several times over the weekend. He is currently 10th in Busch series points with two top-fives and five top-tens over the previous 14 races.
Riggs commented that his Truck series win was a big step for him because it was his first victory on a track larger than the half-mile oval at Martinsville, VA. When asked what he had learned at that race that he could apply to the Busch car here, he responded that he knew some of the trouble spots, but that not a lot would apply because the repaving of the track since last season had made the surface so much smoother. Riggs was also asked how the older drivers in the Busch series were accepting him, and he replied that it was really encouraging to get a pat on the back and to be told "good job" from drivers that he looked up to as heroes.
Since the Winston Cup drivers were at Kentucky for testing, they answered several questions about testing procedures and the Kentucky track. Jarrett explained that the track is a good site to test shock, suspension and aero packages on their cars because of the speedway's configuration. He said it most resembled the Las Vegas track for the similarity of the entry to turns 1 and 3 at the two tracks, but that a team could simulate conditions at many of the Winston Cup tracks at the Kentucky facility. As a follow up to that comment, the drivers were asked about the perception of there being so many "cookie-cutter" tracks in the country (mentioned were the ovals at Chicago and Kansas in addition to Kentucky and Las Vegas). Waltrip commented that while the tracks look very similar, they all have unique characteristics and must be driven differently.
The drivers were asked for their impressions of the Kentucky track and if they thought that the Winston Cup series would or should visit there. Waltrip offered that the facility was first-class, but that he didn't know if a Cup race would ever happen here. Jarrett said that the surface was very good and that he expected to see more drivers testing here in the future because it was a good place for teams to learn a lot about their cars. He mentioned that even if NASCAR asked them for their impressions of the track, he had doubts that the drivers' input would be given much consideration. All four drivers remarked about the smoothness of the surface and the large amount of grip available.
Track President, Mark Cassis, closed the session, commenting that the upcoming Busch race is projected to be another sellout, repeating last year's SRO crowd. He also said that he hoped this would help showcase the facility as an ideal candidate for an appearance on the 2003 Winston Cup calendar.
The Kroger 300 Busch race weekend will also feature two other NASCAR series: the NASCAR All-Pro touring series will run the Kentucky 150 on Friday night, June 14th and the Goody's Dash Series will race for 100 miles just after the Grand National race ends on Saturday night.