Horsepower and Heroes
The notion of hero, or heroism, has evolved since its early definition. The word “hero” comes from the Greeks, who used the term to define a protector or defender. The word and notion has evolved through the centuries and, today, heroes come in all shapes and sizes. In Kentucky, for example, the majority of state-born heroes are of the four-legged variety. The state is synonymous with everything associated with thoroughbred horses, from breeding to racing. The Kentucky Derby- and Preakness Stakes-winning horse, I’ll Have Another, is the most recent horse-racing hero to top the long list of his Kentucky-born victors. His predecessors include the likes of Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy and Zenyatta.
Another kind of hero full of horsepower invades the Bluegrass State this weekend as the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series compete in the Quaker State 400 Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. It marks just the second time the Sprint Cup Series teams are competing at the 1.5-mile oval. The inaugural race in 2011 featured 12 different race leaders – one of which was driver Kurt Busch, who qualified third and led twice for a total of 41 laps, but wound up having to settle for a ninth-place finish. Busch will be looking for more of the same this weekend with the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet team.
At 1.5 miles in length, Kentucky falls into the intermediate track category. Intermediate tracks have been the strong suit of the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team during the 2012 NASCAR season. While the results may not show it, the performance has been there. Busch was running in the top-10 during events in Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City earlier this season only to have late-race problems relegate him to finishes outside the top-15. As an added incentive, the No. 51 Chevrolet team will be bringing the same chassis it used at Darlington in May, when Busch ran in the top-10 throughout the race.
While Busch & Company will be looking for success on the track, the team will also be honoring another brand of hero. Phoenix Racing is working with the Armed Forces Foundation to pay tribute to select members of our nation’s military. Beginning with this weekend’s race at Kentucky, the name of a former military member will be featured on the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet. Riding with Busch this weekend will be 1st Lt. Ashley White Stumpf, a member of the Army Rangers who was killed Oct. 22, 2011, in Khandahar, Afghanistan, while serving with Special Operations Forces (SOF) as a member of a Cultural Support Team. Stumpf was one of a select group of female soldiers who volunteered to undergo intensive training to work with SOF and establish relationships with Afghan women and children while deployed.
Heroes can take any shape and, whether they have four legs, two legs or even four wheels, they can be inspiring and generate excitement. That excitement will be very electric when the 800-horsepower Sprint Cup Series cars of the NASCAR circuit take over horse country this Saturday night.