Kentucky Debut ... The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will make its debut Saturday night at the Sparta, Ky.,-based facility. The 1.5-mile tri-oval has been holding NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events since 2000. Richard Childress Racing drivers Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Kevin Harvick have all competed in NNS races at Kentucky Speedway, with Harvick claiming victory in the inaugural NNS race in 2001. In addition, Harvick recently participated in a Goodyear tire-test there earlier this season. Although Jeff Burton hasn't made any competitive laps at the race track, he has tested there several times in years past.
Get to the Points ... Following the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Harvick took over the NSCS points lead by five markers. Bowyer slid one spot, to ninth, and is 59 points outside the top five. Menard advanced one position to 16th in the standings and is 32 markers in arrears to the top 10 while Burton remains 24th, sitting 47 markers outside the top 20.
This Week's Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet at Kentucky Speedway ... Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 356 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet Impala was a brand new addition to the RCR fleet for the 2011 season, making its on-track debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May when Menard started from the 16th position andbrought home a 29th-place result. The Slugger Labbe-led team will use Chassis No. 328 for Thursday's test session at the 1.5-mile racetrack. Also built new for the 2011 season, this car made appearances at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (started 18th/finished 12th) and Darlington Raceway (started 18th/finished 22nd).
Menard not a stranger to Kentucky Speedway ... Although the NSCS will be making its debut at the Sparta, Ky.-based oval, Menard has four starts with the NASCAR Nationwide Series tucked under his belt. He has one top-five and two top-10 finishes to his credit and has started in the top-10 three times.
How do you feel about Kentucky Speedway getting a Cup date? "It's going to be a good crowd. I think they've had sellouts every time the Nationwide Series has gone there. It's probably overdue for a Cup race, honestly. I'm looking forward to going back there."
Do you think you have a little bit of an advantage over some of these guys having run there before? "No because there are maybe four guys in the garage that haven't run at Kentucky (Speedway) before. Everyone else has run there before whether in (the) Nationwide (Series), (the Camping World Trucks Series) Trucks or testing. Back when we could test there, that was the most popular test track. So, some guys have a lot more laps there than I do just from testing."
What kind of racing do you expect at Kentucky Speedway? "Honestly, it depends on the tire. We don't have any history on how the Sprint Cup Series cars race there, but from past experiences from racing there, the groove can open up if you have the right tire. You can run really high with the right tire, and if you don't have the right tire, you have to run on the bottom. It really depends on the tire that Goodyear brings for us to use this weekend."
This Week's Budweiser Chevrolet at Kentucky Speedway ... Kevin Harvick will race chassis No. 288 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. The team utilized this car eight times in 2010, earning one win (Michigan, 8/15), three top-five (Fontana, 2/21; Indianapolis, 7/25) and six top-10 finishes. Harvick also raced this car to a fifth-place finish earlier this year at Pocono (6/12).
Almost Halfway Home ... As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series hits the halfway point of the season in Kentucky, Harvick finds himself atop the driver point standings for the first time this year after scoring a seventh-place finish last weekend at Daytona International Speedway. The Bakersfield, Calif., native has earned three wins, six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes so far this season. He's also led 130 laps and has an average starting position of 20.5 and a series-best average finishing position of 10.7.
Firsts at Kentucky ... Harvick enters the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway very familiar with inaugural events at the 1.5-mile track. In 2001, Harvick scored an impressive win in the first-ever NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the track. He started 11th, led 131 laps and took the checkered flag with a 1.311-second margin of victory over the second-place driver. In his only other start at the track, Harvick started 13th and finished sixth in the 2006 NNS event.
Testing 1, 2, 3 ... As Sprint Cup Series teams prepare to compete at Kentucky Speedway for the first time this weekend, NASCAR has allotted nearly six hours of testing for the teams on Thursday. In addition to the extra track time this weekend, the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team was one of seven teams that participated in the Goodyear tire test at the track last month.
The series hasn't been to a new Cup track in 10 years, with the last ones being Chicago and Kansas. What's the biggest challenge when you head to a place like we head to Kentucky this week? "I'd say every one of us has been there in some way, shape or form. 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 race track. I think it's a race track 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."
What were you able to learn from the tire test? "I think just knowing that the tire is good. It's a very durable tire. You're not on edge. I think the biggest thing is just putting that to bed and knowing that we're not going to have any tire issues."
How long does it take you to feel comfortable in a car and find a rhythm? "For me, I'm a rhythm racer. I'm not going to be one of those guys who is going to go out there and shove the thing in the fence by just trying to go fast right off the bat. I'm going to creep up and kind of know the limits of my car and keep pushing them until I feel like that's the edge."
This Week's Caterpillar Chevrolet at Kentucky Speedway ... Jeff Burton will race Chassis No. 259 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend's Quaker State 400. Burton tested this RCR racer back in 2009 at Rockingham Speedway. This No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy will make its first competitive laps this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
Never Say Never ... Although, Burton hasn't competed in any NASCAR Nationwide Series events at the 1.5-mile speedway, his RCR teammates Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Paul Menard have a number of starts at the facility, with Harvick capturing the inaugural NNS win in 2001. The South Boston, Va., native has however participated in multiple test sessions at the track throughout the years.
Track Time ... NASCAR will be allotting all Sprint Cup Series teams valuable testing time on Thursday before the weekend events get underway. In addition to the standard practice sessions, teams will be given almost six hours of testing on the racing surface before Saturday night's Quaker State 400. In addition to the extra track time this weekend, Burton's RCR teammate Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team were one of seven teams that participated in the Goodyear tire test at the track last
What are your thoughts about Kentucky Speedway getting a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series date? "I've always said that the tracks that can bring people in are the ones that deserve races. Kentucky Speedway, from what I've heard about their sales, the fans have really supported them. I think that's a great thing. It's cool to go somewhere else, to a new circuit. I always think that is neat. The local fans will be excited and energized about it and I'm optimistic."
This is the first new NSCS track to come onto the circuit since 2001. Does that level the playing field or doesn't it matter with all the testing now days? "It's interesting because some people have raced there and some people that have not. A lot of times, when new race tracks are added to the schedule, no one has raced there. New Hampshire is kind of the same way. When it first came on, there was a group of us that had raced at New Hampshire three or four times before the Cup cars were ever there. In some ways, it's an equalizer, and in other ways, it could separate some things a little bit because people have a lot of experience. There's a thought that, that could really benefit those people."
What kind of racing should we expect at Kentucky Speedway? "The only concern I have about Kentucky Speedway is how rough the surface is. These cars seem to put on the best races at tracks that are a little bit smoother. That's my only concern about the race track. I think the race track itself is a good race track. I think it can put on a typical (Sprint) Cup race, which means it could be a great finish or someone could drive away from everyone. The bumps will be a huge factor as to who has success there and who doesn't."
How do you think the fans are going to react having the Sprint Cup Series come to their town? "I think that is going to be a really exciting thing for them. Everything that I've heard about ticket sales, the fans embraced it immediately. I think it should be very well received. You know, its fun for us as drivers to go somewhere that the fans appreciate there being a race. I think its human nature that if the Coca-Cola 600 has been in Charlotte for the last 40 years, let's just say, fans know it's going to be there, and you can take that for granted. Going somewhere for the first time, I think those fans are a little more respectful to 'wow, look how cool this is.' I think it's always cool to go new places. I think it's important for our sport to be reenergized and for us to reenergize areas of the country as well."
This Week's Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet at Kentucky Speedway ... Clint Bowyer will pilot chassis No. 360 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This Chevrolet Impala, built new in 2011, saw action earlier this season at Kansas Speedway when Bowyer recorded an 18th-place finish after starting 27th.
Career Kentucky Stats ... The 2011 Quaker State 400 marks the first time NASCAR's senior division will make an appearance at Kentucky Speedway This weekend's 400 miler marks Bowyer's 199th career NSCS start.
In four NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at the Sparta, Ky.-based facility, Bowyer owns one top-five and three top-10 finishes, posting his best finish of third at the 1.5-mile speedway in the 2005 event.
The Emporia, Kan., native has completed 100% (800 of 800) of the laps, leading 14, contested at Kentucky Speedway during his NNS career.
Points Racing ... After getting caught up in Daytona's version of "The Big One" on Saturday night, Bowyer fell one position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings to ninth. He now sits 81 markers behind new leader Kevin Harvick.
How do you feel about Kentucky Speedway getting a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series date? "I think it's great. I've raced there a couple times in a NASCAR Nationwide Series car. That's a huge fan base out there, there's no question about that. Kentucky Speedway is one of the only places we can pack the house in a Nationwide Series stand-alone event. I think it's going to surprise a lot of people at how many fans are attending that race. The track is rough. You're really going to have your hands full trying to get a good package on your car to get through those bumps. The goal is to bounce through the bumps better than the next guy. No one is going to bounce through them well, but you want to be able to bounce through them better than the next guy."
There really are only a few NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers that have never raced at Kentucky. I guess that means you don't really have an advantage having raced there in the past. "Yeah, not really; I mean all these guys are professionals. It doesn't matter where we go, they're going to adapt and get up to speed. It's going to come down to who can get their suspension and chassis packages working the best. They are the people that will prevail at a place like Kentucky Speedway."
By: richard childress racing