Quaker State 400 at Kentucky preview

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series action is making a return to Kentucky Speedway for the second running of the Quaker State 400.

Saturday night’s race will only be the second Cup date at the track that has sought a Cup Series date seemingly since the track opened in 2001.

Last year’s inaugural event is one that will be remembered by everyone in attendance. But maybe not for the reasons Kentucky Speedway would have hoped.

Issues with traffic and parking began to surface before Thursday’s Truck Series race, and escalated to a new level as drivers and fans began to arrive at the track.

With only one entrance leading into the speedway off a two-lane highway, traffic was backed up over ten miles, causing many fans to miss the start of the race, and some the entire thing.

Through all the mess, there was a race happening.

Kyle Busch was able to make history as the first driver to win a Sprint Cup race in the state of Kentucky. Busch lead 125 of the 267 laps on the night, holding off David Reutimann and Jimmie Johnson on the final restart of the night to take the win.

While last year’s race at the Kentucky Speedway may have been the first Sprint Cup race in the track’s history, drivers weren’t lacking for experience at the track after a decade of Nationwide and Truck Series races had been held there previously.

“My first laps there from the test session last year when we went,” said Johnson who finished third in last year’s race.

“I felt like the bumps were going to make the car lose grip and spin out and be out of control, but there is so much grip there that even with as rough and as bumpy as it is, you stand on the gas and carry a ton of speed and just bounce around.  Those are the things I had to overcome when I got on the track last year.

“It’s the roughest and fastest track we go to; well, Atlanta is fast, but there are big swells and I still don’t feel like we’re driving as hard at Atlanta as we are at Kentucky.

“Kentucky, you’re driving it like a freshly repaved track.  You have high frequency bumps and banking doing weird things. It’s a fun track for those reasons and it has a lot of character to it.”

When looking at drivers who could win Saturday night, it’s hard to bypass last year’s winner, Kyle Busch.

While he may have had the dominating performance last year, Busch isn’t a guarantee by any stretch after three of the last four races have seen the day end early for the No.18 team with engine issues.

So, how about the driver who won the Nationwide race last year, Brad Keselowski?

Keselowski finished seventh in last year’s Quaker State 400, leading 79 laps on the night. The driver of the “Blue Deuce” is one of the most experienced drivers at Kentucky, competing there on a regular basis for the past five seasons in both Nationwide and Truck Series events.

Or maybe Saturday night’s winner will be the most consistent driver over the past three races, Tony Stewart.

With an average finish of 2.3 including back-to-back second place finishes at Michigan and Sonoma, Stewart may be the driver to beat on Saturday night.

After finishing twelfth last year in his first start at the Kentucky Speedway, the one they call “Smoke” very well may be on his way to taking his series leading third win of the 2012 season.

Regardless who’s able to grab the checkered flag after 267 laps, Saturday night’s race should play a pivotal role into the summer stretch picture as the race to the Chase picks up.

Quaker State 400 Entry List 

#1 Jamie McMurray (McDonald’s)

#2 Brad Keselowski (Miller Lite)

#5 Kasey Kahne (Quaker State)

#9 Marcos Ambrose (Mac Tools)

#10 David Reutimann (Tommy Baldwin Racing)

#11 Denny Hamlin (FedEx Express)

#13 Casey Mears (Valvoline NextGen)

#14 Tony Stewart (Office Depot/ Mobil 1)

#15 Clint Bowyer (5-Hour Energy)

#16 Greg Biffle (ARC)

#17 Matt Kenseth (Fifth Third Bank)

#18 Kyle Busch (M&M’s Red-White-Blue)

#19 Mike Bliss (Humphrey Smith Racing)

#20 Joey Logano (Dollar General)

#22 A.J. Allmendinger (Shell Pennzoil)

#23 Scott Riggs (North Texas Pipe)

#24 Jeff Gordon (Drive to End Hunger)

#26 Josh Wise (MSD Transport)

#27 Paul Menard (Menards / Sylvania)

#29 Kevin Harvick (Budweiser Folds of Honor)

#30 David Stremme (Inception Motorsports)

#31 Jeff Burton (Caterpillar)

#32 Ken Schrader (Federated Auto Parts)

#33 Stephen Leicht (LitteJoesAuto.com)

#34 David Ragan (TBA)

#36 Dave Blaney (SealWrap)

#38 David Gilliland (Taco Bell)

#39 Ryan Newman (Tornados)

#42 Juan Pablo Montoya (Target)

#43 Aric Almirola (Eckrich)

#47 Bobby Labonte (Scott’s Products)

#48 Jimmie Johnson (Lowe’s Ermine White)

#49 J.J. Yeley (JPO Absorbents)

#51 Kurt Busch (Phoenix Construction)

#52 Mike Skinner (CrusaderStaffing.com)

#55 Michael Waltrip (Aaron’s / University of Kentucky)

#56 Martin Truex Jr. (NAPA)

#74 Stacey Compton (Turn One Racing)

#78 Regan Smith (Furniture Row)

#83 Landon Cassill (Burger King)

#87 Joe Nemechek (AM FM Energy)

#88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Diet Mountain Dew / National Guard)

#93 Travis Kvapil (Burger King)

#95 Scott Speed (Levine Family Racing)

#98 Michael McDowell (Phil Parsons Racing)

#99 Carl Edwards (UPS)