Two-time Kentucky Speedway winner will be a threat in both the XFINITY and Sprint Cup races this weekend.
Sprint Cup teams are hoping that Mother Nature cooperates and cars can return to the track at Kentucky Speedway for a 90-minute practice on Friday afternoon.
With many crews running qualifying setups during the first practice, Happy Hour will offer drivers the opportunity to acclimate to the lower downforce package with a slightly softer tire prior to the car’s debut in Saturday’s Quaker State 400.
Motorsport.com asked two-time Kentucky Speedway winner Brad Keselowski to describe how the new package handles.
If you get into a slide, it’s gonna take longer to recover and it takes more skill in those situations than it does car performance – more driver skill.
“The car has less grip, and the easiest way to explain that to someone is if you’re from somewhere where it snows it’s the difference between driving in great conditions and driving with a little bit of snow on the road,” said Keselowski, who will start second in the Quaker State 400. “You have to be more cognizant. If you get into a slide, it’s gonna take longer to recover and it takes more skill in those situations than it does car performance – more driver skill.
“And I think that’s why the drivers have been fighting so hard for a package of this type because we’re of the opinion that we would like to dictate the winners and losers of the race based on driver talent and perhaps not some of the peripheral items that come into play in a race. So this package is definitely leaning towards having that possibility.”
While Keselowski acknowledges that the caliber of car and team will continue to determine the outcome in an event. But the former champion believes the car’s contribution “feels slightly less significant” and the lower downforce package puts the racing back in the drivers’ hands.
“I want to be able to look a fan in the eye after a race that I’ve won and tell him, ‘I had a great car, but I drove a great race, too.’ And to do that the driver has to play a role in it and this is an increased role for the driver,” Keselowski said. “So that’s very good in my opinion and I’m very happy with it.
“Certainly the car is a little harder to drive. It’s a race car. It should be hard to drive. It shouldn’t be just point and play. This isn’t a video game, nor should it be. So I’m very happy with the package and what I’ve seen so far."
NASCAR anticipated that the lower downforce package would also slow corner speeds. Many drivers complained about that they don't have to lift the throttle while making the turns.
“As far as corner speed, it feels a little slower to me," Keselowski said. "It will feel a lot faster if something happens, but I think it might be a little bit too early to give a great answer with the track not being fully conditioned and not being in race mode as it pertains to traffic and so forth.
"But my guess is it will be, at the very least, a decrease in speed, if not a significant decrease come race time from what we’ve seen here in years past.”