Ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties aren’t the only things that go bump in the night. Kentucky Speedway in Sparta also is home to things that go bump in the night, namely, 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers thundering over the bumps that cover the surface of the 1.5-mile oval.
All tracks have character – subtle undulations and grooves that set it apart from its counterparts. But Kentucky’s surface is the X-Games of paved tracks – edgy and in-your-face. There is no avoiding the bumps. Navigate them wrong, and they’ll make you a part of a spark-filled highlight reel.
Saturday night’s 400-mile Sprint Cup race at Kentucky marks only the second time NASCAR’s elite series has competed at the track, for it joined the Sprint Cup schedule last year. As such, it is just one of two tracks where Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, is winless in Sprint Cup competition. The other is Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, the oldest track on the Sprint Cup schedule.
Stewart would like nothing more than to cross Kentucky off his to-do list, as he did earlier this year when he won at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway to secure his first win at a track that for 13 previous years had eluded him. Ironically, Stewart’s considers Kentucky to be a bumpier version of Las Vegas.
That outlook, combined with the confidence from his recent hot streak of three top-three finishes in the last three Sprint Cup races – including back-to-back second-place results at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and the road course in Sonoma, Calif., that have vaulted Stewart to fifth in points – makes the three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion more than capable of bumping his way into Kentucky’s victory lane on Saturday night.