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Subplots abound as Kentucky Speedway prepares for running of Quaker State 400

Event host Drew Lachey with the Roush/Fenway No. 6 AdvoCare Ford driven by Trevor Bayne (Mark Hansel Photo)

Event host Drew Lachey with the Roush/Fenway No. 6 AdvoCare Ford driven by Trevor Bayne (Mark Hansel Photo)


By Mark Hansel
Special to KyForward

The Kentucky Speedway’s big weekend will feature added excitement this year with several subplots unfolding at the Sparta oval, culminating with a key NASCAR Sprint Cup points race July 11.

Kentucky Speedway officials were joined by Trevor Bayne, Sprint Cup driver of the No. 6 Roush/Fenway Racing AdvoCare Ford, at Lachey’s in Over-the-Rhine for the track’s Media Day Monday.

Also on hand were the sports bar and grill co-owners and homegrown celebrities, Nick and Drew Lachey, and Tim Duerr, Motorsports Marketing Manager for Ford Performance.

Bayne, 24, said he is looking forward to competing in the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts, at one of NASCAR’s most challenging tracks.

“I really enjoy the track and Kentucky has not been my strongest track,” Bayne said. “It is a driver-challenging track because it has more – we call it character – but there are a lot of bumps on Kentucky Speedway. It makes it unique and it stands out compared to a lot of the other race tracks because you have to make your car handle through that.”

Bayne, who completed a top-10 finish at the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway Sunday, will be making his Kentucky Speedway Sprint Cup Series debut July 11. His five previous starts at the Sparta oval were as a driver in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger speaks with NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Trevor Bayne at Lachey’s in Over-the-Rhine (Mark Hansel Photo)

Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger speaks with NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Trevor Bayne at Lachey’s in Over-the-Rhine (Mark Hansel Photo)

Bayne, who is from Knoxville, Tennessee, said he enjoys the “more worn out” race track that takes him back to his roots of short-track racing.

“The surface is more abrasive, so tires wear out which makes for better passing, I think,” Bayne said. “A lot of tracks we go to now are newly paved, and basically the tires don’t change throughout the run, so you are stuck behind the guy in front of you.”

Mark Simendinger, general manager of Kentucky Speedway, said there are several compelling story lines at this year’s race, including the last opportunity for NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon to get a win at the track.

Gordon has announced his retirement at the end of this season

“Every time Jeff Gordon steps in a car now it’s a big story,” Simendinger said. “What you all probably know is (Kentucky Speedway is) the only track he hasn’t won on. What you may not know is that, if you look at his finishes over the first four years, it averages out to be his second-best track of any that he has run on.”

Kentucky Speedway is second only to Martinsville in average finish for Gordon.

“As we say in horse-racing, he’s alive when he gets to Kentucky, so that’s going to be an interesting story line,” Simendinger said.

Simendinger also suggested that a new aerodynamic package might be unveiled for the Quaker State 400. The new package, with more downforce and less drag, reportedly would create more opportunities for drivers to pass each other.

Bayne presented the event hosts, Drew and Nick Lachey, with autographed race gloves worn during a race this year.

Nick Lachey said both he and his brother are long-tine NASCAR fans.

“We’ve been to a bunch of races over the years and I think I can speak for all of Cincinnati when I say we were extremely excited when the Sprint Cup series came to Kentucky Speedway,” Lachey said.

The weekend of racing at Kentucky Speedway is the only triple-header left on NASCAR’s summer schedule.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225, takes place on Thursday, July 9, followed by the NASCAR XFINITY Series 300 on Friday.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 will be contested under the lights Saturday night. A pre-race concert by country music singer/songwriter Jerrod Niemann precedes the Saturday race.

Fans of the No. 88 car will get to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. drive in both the XFINITY Series Kentucky 300 and the NSCS Quaker State 400 for the first time.

The Quaker State 400 is also the only 1.5 mile track in NASCAR’s summer series and is one of just nine events remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins.

The top 16 drivers, based either on having won a race or with the highest point totals among those who have not won, compete in the Chase during the final 10 events of the season.

Bayne currently sits 27th in points without a win, so a strong finish at Kentucky Speedway is critical to his Chase hopes.

Season tickets, July weekend packages, and single race grandstand tickets, as well as camping spaces are still available. For pricing information, or to order tickets, call (859)578-2300, or go to www.kentuckyspeedway.com.

Mark Hansel is managing editor for NKyTribune, where this article originally appeared.

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