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NASCAR drivers get first look at new Kentucky Speedway; miss the ‘character’ of the old surface


By Mark Hansel
Special to KyForward

More than a dozen NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers were at Kentucky Speedway Monday for organizational testing and the hot topics were the reconfigured track and the new racing surface.

With Kentucky Speedway’s signature race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts less than a month away, drivers welcomed the opportunity to get onto the track.

Years of wear, and drainage problems took their toll on the Kentucky Speedway surface and while most drivers hated to see it go, they recognize that it was becoming unsafe.

Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup and Quaker State 400 Champion Kyle Busch said he struggles on repaved tracks.

Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup and Quaker State 400 champion Kyle Busch speaks to the media at Monday's organizational testing (Photos by Mark Hansel)

Defending NASCAR Sprint Cup and Quaker State 400 champion Kyle Busch speaks to the media at Monday’s organizational testing (Photos by Mark Hansel)

“I don’t like repaves at all, I’ll admit,” Busch said. “I did win the last race here at Kentucky Speedway, I won the last race at Michigan Speedway before they repaved it, I won the last race at Bristol before they repaved it. I have a history of being really good before they tear it all up and screw it all up for me.”

The old surface at Kentucky Speedway was known as a driver’s track because it was well worn and the bumps and wear that come with age put a driver’s skills to the test.

During rain delays the surface was also difficult to dry out and weepers, or moisture that came up through the track, was a source of aggravation for drivers.

Kentucky Speedway invested $1 million in drainage improvements to address those issues and also added an additional SAFER barrier.

Bush, who drives the No. 18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, said the entry into turn three has probably been the trickiest corner for him on the circuit and more speed will present an additional challenge. He pointed out, however, that he has negotiated the curve well enough to win two Sprint Cup races at Kentucky Speedway.

“I’m hoping that I can figure that out again and be able to do a little bit better at that than some of these other guys,” Busch said. “Overall, it’s still got some character to it with some bumps down the front straightaway, but it’s definitely not as bad as it was in years prior.”

Joey Logano, driver of the N0. 22 car for Team Penske, said the resurfacing “had to happen.”

“A lot of driver’s were up in the air about it, but we’ve had rain here the last couple of years and it took forever for the track to dry,” Logano, who won Sunday’s race at Michigan, said. “I think it’s good. My first reaction about the racetrack is that it obviously has a lot of grip like every other repave. It takes a while for the grip to come in…but so far, so good.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup driver AJ Almendinger prepares to slingshot into turn 3 in the #47 car on the new Kentucky Speedway surface Monday

NASCAR Sprint Cup driver AJ Almendinger prepares to slingshot into turn 3 in the #47 car on the new Kentucky Speedway surface Monday

Steve Swift, vice president of development and operations for Speedway Motorsports Inc., and the architect of the project, says it is great to hear the positive early feedback from the drivers.

“We were able to achieve all of the things that we set out to do,” Swift said. “Hearing what those guys said in their interviews means a lot.”

Speedway Motorsports is the parent company of Kentucky Speedway.

Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger said it feels good to have the resurfacing done and see drivers back on the track. He added that as they get more laps on the track, things will get even more interesting.

“When they get more rubber on the racetrack and they get more confident, they can race a little closer together,” Simendinger said. “We will kind of see if they can expand the racing line a little bit and how they do in traffic. We’ll learn a little bit more as we go and I think tomorrow we’ll learn a lot more, but we’re off to a great start.”

The Kentucky Speedway NASCAR tripleheader weekend takes place July 7-9 and includes the Camping World Truck Series Buckle UP In Your Truck 225 and the XFINITY Series ALSCO 300.

Several Sprint Cup Drivers, including Busch and Brad Keselowski, have committed to driving in the XFINITY race, which will allow them to get additional experience on the new surface.

Fans can purchase season tickets and camping, July weekend packages or individual race tickets by calling (859) 578-2300, at http://www.kentuckyspeedway.com, or by visiting the Kentucky Speedway ticket office at 1 Speedway Drive in Sparta.

Mark Hansel is managing editor for NKyTribune.com. Reach him at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com


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