QUAKER STATE 400 RACE RESULTS
QUAKER STATE 400 RECAP
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
DOWN THE ROAD
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.
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