Blog Entry

Speed Read: Quaker State 400

Posted on: July 10, 2011 12:52 am
Edited on: July 10, 2011 11:45 am
By Pete Pistone



The Kentucky Derby has nothing to worry about. 

Despite Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Bruton Smith’s claim that someday his stock car race at Kentucky Speedway would be bigger “than that little old horsey race,” the folks at Churchill Downs can sleep easy for a while. 

That’s because Saturday night’s inaugural Quaker State 400 will take the track a very long time to recover from. 

The long-awaited Sprint Cup Series debut at the Kentucky track was marred by a double-barreled dose of dull racing and horrific traffic. 

Kyle Busch dominated the race that featured little if any side-by-side racing and mostly the long, strung out single file parades that 1.5-mile tracks like Kentucky produce more often than not. 

Except for a few flashes of excitement and a three-lap dash to the checkered flag thanks to a late race caution, Saturday night’s 400-miler won’t be remembered for much more than Busch putting his name in the record book as the track’s first time Cup winner. 

Unfortunately the inaugural Kentucky Sprint Cup race will go down as one of the sport’s biggest miscalculations in history. 

The sold-out crowd of more than 110,000 was forced to deal with horrific traffic issues that saw some fans finally arrive at the track after a more than five hour commute only to be turned away by police because parking lots were overflowing. 

And just like that the goodwill and energy that surrounded the race weekend disappeared. 

Since SMI announced the company was shifting a date from Atlanta Motor Speedway to Kentucky, interest was high in the Bluegrass State as was the excitement about NASCAR’s top series finally coming to town. 

Despite attracting crowds in the neighborhood of 60-65,000 over the years for Nationwide, truck series and Indy Car races, speedway management obviously had no idea how to plan for the extra 40,000 customers who had purchased tickets for Saturday night’s race. 

Track officials released a statement apologizing to fans for the mismanagement but the damage will be irreversible for thousands of fans: 

"We've had an overwhelming response to our inaugural Quaker State 400. We know we had challenges related to traffic. We're already planning improvements and looking forward to a much better situation for next year's event."

Rather than basking in the glow of the historic night, officials now have a mess of epic proportions to clean up in twelve months.
Just like the tire debacle of the 2008 Brickyard 400 sent a negative impact that has clearly affected attendance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kentucky now faces an uphill battle to win back the business of fans that will be understandably leery of trying to attend another event at the track.
In a season when NASCAR has seen some positives in gaining back lost attendance, television ratings and interest in the sport Saturday night's fiasco is a major black eye. 

All of which makes Kyle Busch’s win very much an afterthought.


David Reutimann 

Was able to get around Jimmie Johnson in the last laps scramble to the finish line and score a much-needed second place finish behind Busch. His win last summer at Chicagoland Speedway coupled with Saturday night’s runner-up performance could make Reutimann someone to watch on the 1.5-mile tracks coming up. 

Ryan Newman 

Was finally able to get the finish to show for a strong night’s performance and not have any late race challenges get in his way. Newman’s strong night ended in a fourth place finish and helped the Stewart-Haas Racing driver inch up in the point standings. 

Brad Keselowski 

Brought a lot of momentum and confidence into Saturday’s Cup race after his Nationwide Series win the night before. Looked to be in a good spot as the fuel game played itself out in the final stages of the race but the late race caution shuffled him back in the field however Keselowski was still able to notch a seventh place finish.



Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

Is suffering through a difficult stretch of bad luck and frustration that continued Saturday night when he blew a tire after leaving pit road on his final stop of the race. The damage relegated Junior to a 30th place finish and dropped him to eighth in the Sprint Cup Series standings.

Jamie McMurray  

His three big wins at Daytona, Indianapolis and Charlotte last season must seem like an eternity ago to the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver. Made a dramatic exit from Saturday night’s race when his engine blew in a giant cloud of smoke that blinded not just McMurray but the drivers racing behind. A scary looking incident that could have been a lot worse. 

Clint Bowyer  

A very frustrated RCR driver all night long who had to deal with an ill-handling racecar from nearly the drop of the green flag. Bowyer has been mired in a string of poor finishes that continued Saturday night when he exited after making contact with the wall and was handed a 35th place finish.



(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs)  

"(Blank)--- no! You saw me staring at you from the infield, didn't you?" – Clint Bowyer answering his crew chief’s question if changes on pit road worked

"If I run him down, it's going to get ugly.'' – Denny Hamlin about racing with David Ragan 

"Man this is one frustrating place to race.'' – Jeff Gordon

"I'm pushing way too hard. Trying to make up for pit stops ... Its' a mess right now.'' – Kurt Busch



On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 a two. The headlines will be about the massive traffic jam and the hundreds if not thousands of unhappy fans. But as for the actual on track product the race was about as typical a mile-and-half affair as you’ll see. Not much in the way of side-by-side racing and fuel strategy about the only drama to play out as the laps wound down. It came down to a three-lap dash that Kyle Busch won but overall there weren’t many memorable moments of the good kind Saturday night in the Bluegrass State.



Summer in New England is next up for the Sprint Cup Series with next Sunday’s visit to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The one-mile track has evolved into more or less a short track in recent years with a Martinsville-like feel. There could be some leftover paybacks to be dealt out from the Sonoma road course fun and games two weeks ago and Loudon is the perfect place to cash those checks. But as the Chase gets closer and the Wild Card race heats up New Hampshire – which comes a week before the last off weekend of the season – could be a pivotal stop of the summer stretch.

More NASCAR coverage


Since: May 24, 2009
Posted on: July 11, 2011 9:39 am

Speed Read: Quaker State 400

There is a back way into the speedway, Its called RT 42, from I-75 in Florence. I go to the speedway this way and never find myself in a traffic jam.

Since: Feb 8, 2011
Posted on: July 11, 2011 9:28 am

Speed Read: Quaker State 400

Yeah, NASCAR sucks now. Too many punkasses like Kyle Busch, Montoya, Hamlin and all the other guys "fighting" after every race. Also they change the damn points system every year.

Since: Jan 1, 2007
Posted on: July 11, 2011 3:55 am

Speed Read: Quaker State 400

gator, I just chilled at Charlotte last time I was there. Hung out at the car about an hour after the race, and was out in 10 minutes. I took 178 getting out of Talladega one time. 2-lane road, but much less traffic. Got back on I-20 soon after and it was moving. It's just all about knowing where you are and the ins and outs.
Nashville also is routinely slow, and that is a Nationwide race. Too many of these tracks have one way in or tons of people and two major ways (like Talladega) and it's just not enough. I've heard Pocono is hell and from driving by it, the fact it is surrounded by little 2-lane roads and the highway is a ways a way does not help. I would never subject myself to that. But Daytona was great. There are multiple ways in and out. Was there a couple of summers ago (when Shrub caused mayhem on the frontstretch) and left a bit into the fireworks. Was out and on the interstate in under 20 minutes. It's all about knowing where you are and how to get out. Problem is, more than half the people at some tracks are first time visitors or the casuals who just think it is part of it, but to me, I don't want to sit in traffic more than I have to.

Since: Apr 22, 2009
Posted on: July 10, 2011 8:00 pm

Speed Read: Quaker State 400

NCAA was in charge of TRAFFIC CONTROL!

Since: Sep 16, 2006
Posted on: July 10, 2011 6:15 pm

Speed Read: Quaker State 400

I find it odd that in 30 years of going to NASCAR racing I have never had any real problem getting to and leaving the races. Let me clarify though, I also go to football games and the traffic at either venue is not any worse than they other.  The worst traffic problem I have ever been in at a sorting event was an Atlanta Brave game back in 1998, took us 5 hours to get home and we were just 38 miles from the house.  I believe there was another event that was happening at same time and got finished about same time and that is what caused that problem. Other than that I have never been overly delayed because of traffic at sports events.

As far as the article goes, I see the writer complaining about the problems but where are the fans that were complaining? A resposable reporter THAT ACTUALLY WENT TO THE RACE would have interviewed some disgruntled fans to show cause for his article.

Since: Aug 5, 2009
Posted on: July 10, 2011 4:46 pm

Speed Read: Quaker State 400

I agree @jetsfan. Ever been here to Charlotte? its like a big mess. Same thing last time i was in Bristol. 100,000 people in 1 place seems to have that affect. 

Since: Dec 4, 2007
Posted on: July 10, 2011 4:40 pm

Speed Read: Quaker State 400

I actually thought it was a good race until............the inevitable debris caution....a kleenex on the track. Honestly I didn't catch what it really was but it seemed a bit contrived to me. I'm not neccessarily a 18 fan but I would have loved to see him lap the field.


Since: Jul 26, 2007
Posted on: July 10, 2011 3:44 pm

Speed Read: Quaker State 400

Part of the traffic problem is that people don't have a clue about how to drive in that part of Kentucky.  Honest to God, every freaking day there's a major mess around the I-71-I-75 junction, and it usually has nothing to do with traffic volume.  I'll agree that there are few if any shortcuts to the speedway, all winding country two-lane roads, unless you go down the Indiana side of the river--and that's two-lane roads, too.  On the Kentucky side, it's I-71 or pretty much nothing.

As for the race itself, well, it was the usual 1.5-mile affair, with little real racing and cautions out of thin air.  "Let's let them get all strung out, then bunch 'em up so it looks close, then let 'em get strung out, then bunch 'em up", rinse and repeat.  The only reason I watched much of it was because it was "local" and the first Sprint Cup race there. 

Since: Sep 26, 2008
Posted on: July 10, 2011 2:36 pm

Speed Read: Quaker State 400

The traffic is bad at all tracks unless you know the shortcuts or show up really early. Guess what? First time they've had 110,000 at Kentucky Speedway. No one knows the shortcuts yet. Bruton has already said he's adding in a ton of parking next year. I've been to Talladega and sat in line on the highway for 2.5 hours FOR THE BUSCH SERIES RACE. This isn't the first or last time you will see it. I learned the shortcuts at Talladega soon after and was in and parked in under 20 minutes after that. Sure, would have been nicer to have it all prepared before hand, but they underestimated, it happens

Problem is....there aren't any shortcuts. Sparta is about 35 miles south of Cincinnati on 1-71, and 50 miles north of Louisville. Only one major 2 lane highway going each direction. It DOES go to 5 lanes in each direction, about 2 miles before the speedway. Otherwise, it's nothing but country roads that take you WAY off the beaten path. I lived in Northern Kentucky for 39 years, and I can tell you that the speedway is nothing short of a HUGE mess. They will need to expand the highway to 3 lanes to make it work, but the state of Kentucky won't do that just for the speedway.

Since: Nov 30, 2008
Posted on: July 10, 2011 2:31 pm

Speed Read: Quaker State 400

 Do you get as upset as I do at the competition cautions?  These are supposed to be the best stock car drivers & teams around but just because it rains before the race they gotta have a guaranteed caution?  That kinda ticks me off.  Especially when they throw to check for tire wear and everyone just changes 2 tires.

Sometimes a team deserves to win a race by 8 seconds.

Yes I do get mad, it is sad, let the race go, gez.

Yes you are right about the 8 second deal, they deserve it no matter who blows the field away, its racing.
What isnt fair is for anyone pulling out big leads and on there way to the win just to have a debris yellow and have someone whos got there butt whipped all night to go dive bombing the corners and messing up other drivers races that have out run them the whole race.
But its what we have I guess, But I like you enjoy green flag racing, its entertaining because you like me know how to watch a race, I have used my timing pieces since 1972 to watch racing, its a blast and the better teams and drivers seperate themselves most of the time. Spikes.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or