Once again, inspection issues plagued the qualifying sessions at Kentucky Speedway in the NASCAR Xfinity and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
When qualifying began in the NASCAR Xfintiy Series, there were roughly 10 teams sitting in the inspection line at the LIS station. Luckily, all teams were able to make a lap in the session due to the cleanup from three spins on the racing surface.
However, Kyle Larson was not lucky during Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying. The team went through the LIS at least four times before ultimately giving up as the clock ran out on qualifying.
At Kentucky, NASCAR began issuing tougher penalties to teams who decide they want to play games in inspection. One of the penalties was moving practice holds to the final practice session of the weekend. The sanctioning body is also looking at taking away a set of tires from teams. NASCAR is also taking away the “hard cards” of crew chiefs for a certain amount of time, forcing them to get paper credentials from each track.
NASCAR is keeping teams in check by forcing their hand when it comes to the inspection process. Teams called on NASCAR earlier in the season to keep a stiff hand.
In an effort to make the racing better after a repave at Kentucky Speedway, NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) ran the tire dragon across the middle to lower grooves of the track.
However, when NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams arrived to the track on Wednesday for practice, they were upset with where the speedway ran the tire dragon. The speedway confirmed they ran the tire dragon where they did last year based on the racing.
SMI officials were adamant that they knew what they were doing, until Friday. After more outcry from drivers, SMI ran the tire dragon in an eight foot section from the middle groove up before and after the postponed NASCAR Xfinity Series event.
After the Xfinity and Cup race, there was no noticeable difference in the racing based on where the track ran the tire dragon. The only difference was found from within the cockpit when drivers would get out of the bottom groove that the track would catch the car and not send the driver for a spin,
With stage racing in place, competition cautions should have been deemed unnecessary especially with short stage lengths in the Truck and Xfinity series.
Despite rains throughout the day before the Truck race, NASCAR did not issue a competition caution. Why? The first and second stage had lengths of 35 laps. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, there was a competition caution despite the opening stage lengths being only 45 laps.
NASCAR should look at potentially removing competition cautions in the Truck and Xfinity Series due to the shorter stage length. The stage lengths in these series is usually shorter than the length of a fuel run. Teams cannot fuel the car before the competition caution.
SPARTA, Ky-- After crashing out early in the Quaker State 400, Brad Keselowski has strong and stern words.
Keselowski wrecked out of the race on lap 89. Keselowski lost control of his Ford trying to get to the bottom lane, collecting Jimmie Johnson, putting him out of the race as well.
“I just wrecked it. It stinks. I got loose into three. I was underneath the 14. I was trying to lay up and give room but just spun out as soon as I got anywhere near the corner. I wrecked myself and a bunch of other guys. It is part of it I guess, but not a part that you have to like,” Keselowski explained about the accident. “It is part of the deal when you race at these types of tracks where it is one groove with this car and the way it is designed. You have to find a way around it and I didn’t find a way around it.”
Keselowski and his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford did not have speed throughout the weekend.
“It is frustrating. We weren’t as fast as we wanted to be today. That is always frustrating. I am probably as much frustrated with myself as I am frustrated with the situation and frustrated with the sport that we can’t design a better car than this that you can race without having to do everything on the restart. That is all part of it I guess. It is where we are right now," Keselowski stated.
Keselowski praised Kentucky Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Inc. officials about listening to running the tire dragon in the middle groove. However, Keselowski stated that it was still a one groove racetrack.
“They made a good effort. It was better than nothing but there are limitations,” said Keselowski.
Keselowski contributed the one groove racetrack to the design of the Gen Six the series currently is running.
“The way this car is, it needs a lot more help than a Tire Dragon. It is a poorly designed race car and it makes racing on tracks like this very difficult to put on the show we want to put on for our fans. You do what you can to gouge and claw on the restarts and get everything you can get,” said Keselowski. “You have to put yourself in bad situations to do that and that is where we were. If you don’t make those moves on the restarts, then you run in the back. Or you have a bad day. The scenario that the car design, more than the track.”
After cooling off from the heat of the moment, Keselowski went to social media to clarify his comments:
I lost "Truth and Grace" after wrecking out today so I wrote a Follow up on my post wreck comments- pic.twitter.com/LmORJArdjp— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) July 9, 2017
Keselowski is accredited with a 39th place finish.
SPARTA, K.y— For what could be his final weekend in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, Bubba Wallace, Jr. has showed significant improvement in his short time filling in for Aric Almirola.
After an 11th place finish, Wallace was pleased with how the day went.
“It was a good run for our Smithfield Ford. We had a lot of fun tonight. We just fell off a lot, a lot more than the other guys. We are trying to balance that out. We took a two-tire strategy there that kind of hurt us,” said Wallace about his run at Kentucky. “We fell back on that one restart. We were able to manage and maintain and work out some track position on that green-flag stop and we were 14th and fired off right around there for the last restart and was able to hang on. It was a good day.
In just his fourths start in the Cup level, Wallace is beginning to make a name for himself. Every time he has been in the car, Wallace has finished better than the race prior. He has completed 795 of 797 laps (99.7%) Wallace notices that improvement:
“That was cool. We kept improving. Each and every time on the race track, each and every race. We kept improving, I kept improving. I am getting more and more comfortable with these cars.”
Wallace noticed that his improvement came on restarts.
“I learned my lesson at Michigan running halfway aggressive. I didn’t give anybody any breaks on these restarts. I may have pissed a couple people off but oh well. I needed to do what I needed to do to keep our track position. The repaves make it really tough for passing so you want to get all you can on restarts.”
Despite the rumors around silly season, Wallace isn’t too concerned about them. His focus has turned into trying to find some sponsorship and a ride to continue competing in the Cup level.
“I don’t know what is next for next weekend. I might get a call, I might not. If not, best of luck to Aric and the 43 team. I will play a lot of golf and try to get better at that. I will be on some phone calls trying to get something,” said Wallace.
Despite not knowing if he will continue in the Cup series after this weekend, Wallace is determined that he won’t be gone for long.
“I won’t be gone too long, at least I hope not. It is a bittersweet moment.”
On Wednesday, Almirola is slated to give an update on his progress after the injury he sustained in May at Kansas Speedway.
For the “old-school” fan in NASCAR, Kentucky Speedway offered what they wanted: the “good ole days.”
The older fan in NASCAR tends to focus on how “terrible” the racing is today and how back in the day during the era of Richard Petty and Bobby Allison was better than the on-track product NASCAR produces today.
The Quaker State 400 from Kentucky Speedway mixed in the new and old age of NASCAR. The race at Kentucky Speedway was dominated by Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Busch, who combined led all but 10 laps during the race.
Taking away the fact that this was a repave, this race reminded fans today of what NASCAR’s “golden” era provided, single file racing and barely any passes for the lead.
NASCAR and Kentucky Speedway officials did their best effort by running the tire dragon in the middle and lower grooves before and during the race weekend, but that made no difference whatsoever in the overall quality of the event.
Across the board, everyone hates repaves on racetracks. However, new repaved lives matter. You have to applaud every plausible effort NASCAR and Kentucky Speedway did to make the racing here exciting, but the race did not provide that excitement.
Despite being a new repave, NASCAR did not bring a new aero package to “test” at Kentucky Speedway. Did that change the potential of the race? Absolutely.
Although there were bursts of excitement on the restarts, Kentucky Speedway provided single-groove racing.
“I mean the track is to me, it’s just really lane sensitive, so you have to be right on the bottom it is pretty much the quickest way. So, the restarts are all you’ve got. I mean it’s Kentucky. It was like this last year if I remember,” said Kasey Kahne.
Did stage racing save the Quaker State 400 from absolute disaster?
“Stage racing and all these restarts, the fact that it is so hard to pass there is just an environment that is created with this style of racing. You’ve got to get everything you can on a restart and everybody is at ten tenths. The old days of pointing someone by or maybe letting somebody go until your tires came in are long gone,” said Jimmie Johnson.
What can be done to save racing on repaves? Brad Keselowski believes that something can be done with the cars. “It is time for the sport to design a new car that is worthy of where this sport deserves to be and the show it deserves to put on for its fans,” said Keselowski.
Martin Truex, Jr. responded to Keselowski’s comments: “He's on the driver's council. He's a big part of the lower downforce and he's a big part of the direction everybody is going. So yeah, he was probably just mad because he got wrecked.”
NASCAR is working day in and day out to making the competition on the track better. Where will this lead us? Only time will tell!
For the old school fan, this race should satisfy how great the racing was “back in the day” with follow the leader racing. If it wasn’t for the free pass and wave around, we could have saw only a handful of the cars on the lead lap instead of nine.
However, the racing we saw tonight at Kentucky Speedway, despite it being a repave, is not how the sport will attract the younger fan base, a base that NASCAR so desperately needs for it to be around in the future. It is time for the older fans to sit back and enjoy the racing we currently have.
SPARTA, Ky-- In dominating fashion and battling NASCAR Overtime, Martin Truex Jr. was victorious in the Quaker State 400 from Kentucky Speedway. Truex led a total of 152 laps.
“I thought we were dead. I thought we were done. It’s just – this is completely unbelievable. I’m so excited to win here. It felt like we had a shot last year and it got away from us on fuel mileage and just wanted to win here so so bad after that. This is sweet redemption," said Truex Jr. "I got to say hi to Sherry (Pollex) back home. She didn’t make it this weekend, so I love you babe. And all these awesome fans, thank you guys so much for coming out. What an awesome crowd. I hope they enjoyed it and that was a whole lot of fun. “
This is Truex Jr's 10th career win. This is his third career win of 2017. He scores his 12th stage win of the season.
After starting in the back of the field due to inspection issues in qualifying and receiving a penalty on pit road in the early stages of the race, Kyle Larson finished second.
“Yeah, I sped on pit road there early. At the end of that first stage, so it felt very similar to Texas earlier this year. Didn’t get to qualify, had a pit road penalty at the end of the first stage. Went from the back to the front and then we had scuffs on one run and got the balance off pretty bad, but were able to put stickers on and charge back to the front. The Target Chevy was good," said Larson. "Truex though, never got to see him that last run he was upwards of 15 seconds ahead of us. That was pretty crazy. He has definitely been the fastest car all year. So, got some work to do, but if we can keep chasing him, I think we can beat him.”
Chase Elliott finished third after being a silent contender for much of the race.
"I had a really good roll there. Got to the bottom of the No. 77 and got far enough up next to him to get underneath him into (Turn) 1 and that got us a couple more spots there which was nice. From where we started the night to where we ended up was a big improvement with our Napa Chevrolet," said Elliott "Happy we could just execute well tonight. I don’t think we were as good at Martin (Truex, Jr.) or Kyle (Larson), but we did our jobs on pit road and I made the most of a good car.”
Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-10.
Only nine drivers finished on the lead lap. There were 10 lead changes among four different drivers. There were nine cautions for 39 laps. The time of race was two hours, 57 minutes, and 55 seconds. The average speed was 138.604 mph.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Overton's 301. The race will be broadcasted on NBCSN and Performance Racing Network at 3:00 p.m EDT.