A Bluegrass State visit is on tap this weekend at Kentucky Speedway as the 1.5-mile track hosts a modest milestone — its 10th NASCAR Cup Series race.
Sunday’s Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will cap a busy four-day stretch of racing with all three NASCAR national tours plus the ARCA Menards Series in action. None of the NASCAR events will have practice or qualifying before the green flag; ARCA will conduct a lone practice.
With plenty of miles ahead at the northern Kentucky facility, here’s a primer with helpful information for the 17th of a scheduled 36 Cup Series races this year.
Kentucky Speedway is a 1.5-mile oval, built by developer Jerry Carroll and opened for racing in 2000. The track, which sits less than five miles south of the Ohio River and the Indiana-Kentucky border, was acquired by Speedway Motorsports Inc., in 2008.
Kentucky Speedway was fully repaved and partially reconfigured ahead of the 2016 season, in part to shake up the racing but also to improve drainage and track-drying. Turns 1-2 were increased in banking (from 14 to 17 degrees) and reduced in width (from 74 to 56 feet); the surface in Turns 3-4 remained at 14 degrees of banking and a 74-foot width. The backstraight is 1,600 feet long, and the curved frontstretch has variable banking from 8-10 degrees.
The track first hosted the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series for its opening weekend in 2000, and Greg Biffle was the inaugural winner. Kevin Harvick prevailed in the first NASCAR Xfinity Series race a year later. Kentucky played host to its first Cup Series event in 2011, with Kyle Busch leading 125 of the 267 laps. Kentucky is also the site of Joey Logano’s first Xfinity Series win in 2008.
Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series event marks the tour’s first Kentucky race since 2017. The track also hosted the NTT IndyCar Series from 2000-2011.
Stage 1 is set to end at Lap 80, Stage 2 at Lap 160, and the final stage is slated to conclude on Lap 267.
The NASCAR Cup Series race will be held without practice and qualifying as the sanctioning body tries to limit exposure for on-site personnel to control the spread of coronavirus. Sunday’s starting lineup will be determined by a random draw among groups in the team owner standings:
- Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points
Pit-stall selection is based on the finishing order from last Sunday’s event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 2020 NASCAR rules package for intermediate-sized tracks will be in effect with a tapered spacer used to achieve a target of 550 horsepower. The cars will use aero ducts in addition to other aerodynamic devices to increase downforce.
Goodyear Racing will run the same tire for all three NASCAR national series events this weekend, a new tire set-up for Kentucky that was used at Las Vegas Motor Speedway — another intermediate-sized track — earlier this year. Goodyear updated the tire compound to increase left-side traction and altered the tire construction on both sides. The tire combination is also scheduled to be used at events at 2-mile Michigan International Speedway and 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway later this season.
The Cup Series event will also be run during the warmth of a Sunday afternoon, a change from previous Kentucky races held on Saturday evenings.
“Last year, we integrated a compound change to the right-side tire at Kentucky to increase wear, and have followed that up with a change to the left-side to add grip for this weekend,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “There are a couple areas of focus when we race at these tracks with ultra-smooth surfaces, like Kentucky, Texas and Michigan. One is to monitor the grip level from year to year so we keep up with the track aging process. The other is to manage the heat generated through the tires. The grip created by these tracks results in a lot of speed and that speed, in turn, leads to heat. Making sure we bring tires that wear and shed rubber helps dissipate that heat, and enables the tire run at a more optimal level.”
Each Cup Series team will have eight sets of tires allotted for Sunday’s 400. Xfinity Series teams will have five sets each in their Thursday and Friday events, and Gander Trucks teams will have four sets each for their Saturday evening race.
STATS TO KNOW
— Brad Keselowski reigns as Kentucky Speedway’s all-time wins leader in the NASCAR Cup Series with three victories. The Team Penske driver also has three Xfinity Series wins to his credit.
— Toyota leads all automakers with wins in five of the nine Cup Series races held at Kentucky. Ford has won twice at the Bluegrass State venue, with Chevrolet and Dodge scoring one Kentucky victory each.
— Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick have surged in recent weeks, combining to win seven of the 12 races since the sport returned in May after the coronavirus outbreak. The pair has also won in three consecutive Cup Series events and four of the last five. Kentucky is the lone oval track on the Cup Series schedule where Harvick has yet to win.
— Chase Elliott ranks fourth in the Cup Series in laps led this season, spending time up front in 12 of the 16 races. Kentucky, however, is the only Cup Series track where Elliott has not led a lap in his career.
— Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola enters Sunday’s race with a streak of five consecutive top-five finishes, a career-best. For Almirola to continue that string, he would need to achieve his first top-five day at Kentucky, where his best finish in seven starts is eighth place.
Source: NASCAR statistics, Racing Insights
Tune in to television coverage Sunday on FS1 (2:30 p.m. ET) or on the FOX Sports App. For full radio coverage from Kentucky Speedway, listen in to PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on-air.
RELATED: Ways to follow the races
For a more interactive experience, head over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR app to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras).
2019 RACE WINNER
Kurt Busch outmaneuvered his brother, Kyle, in a fender-scraping overtime finish to snag his first win with Chip Ganassi Racing. The elder Busch went from fourth to first in the two-lap OT shootout and led 41 of the 269 laps to score career win No. 31 in NASCAR’s top division, and a jubilant CGR crew rode the No. 1 Chevrolet into Victory Lane in an old-school celebration.
Kyle Busch finished just .076 seconds back in second place, with Erik Jones — a teammate of his at Joe Gibbs Racing — placing third.
RELATED: 2019 Quaker State 400 recap
ACTIVE KENTUCKY WINNERS
Brad Keselowski (three); Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. (two); Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth (one)