SPARTA, Ky.— With nearly two inches of asphalt relaid at Kentucky Speedway, the Kentucky Tire Dragon was called into action to help rubber in the track.

 

Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Kentucky Speedway officials ran the tire dragon in the middle and lower grooves of the 1.5-mile facility.

 

However, when NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams arrived on the property on Wednesday morning for practice, the complaints rolled in that speedway officials should have ran the tire dragon in the upper groove of the facility.

 

 

Here are what drivers had to say about where the tire dragon ran:

 

“The thing is I thought they did a really good job at Texas. You saw multi-groove racing at Texas on a repave which is pretty unheard of. They can only do so much man. If we tire drag the whole track, everybody is naturally going to go back to the bottom because it’s a repave and it’s going to be – it’s just gonna be faster down there. It’s just how it’s going to work. I think even if they drag the top in, I don’t think it’s going to be faster up by the wall than it would be right on the white line,” said Erik Jones, who is pulling double duty this weekend. “It’s just a repave and it’s going to be like this for ten years. We’re going to be on the bottom and then we’ll start to work up to the middle. Kentucky really, even on the old surface, was just starting to get up to the wall, so it just takes time.”

 

Yeah, that’s been kind of an ongoing thing at race tracks is running the tire dragon in the bottom groove or putting grip in the bottom groove and it’s – to me I honestly think and from especially what I saw yesterday is the tire dragon, the rubber, the groove is going to be on the bottom especially in Turns 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 because that’s the shortest way around the track here and that’s where it’s going to make the most grip. It’s going to be the fastest. I feel like maybe we should’ve put like a small amount of rubber on the bottom just to help us get going, but a majority of the rubber concentrated in the middle groove and then up a little bit higher,” said NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Ben Rhodes. “Wherever you’re going to put the rubber is where the cars are going to be the fastest at. But with the tires that Goodyear is bringing here, if they drug it in the middle groove, then our left-side tires would be adding to that rubber cause we’re – as drivers, the lower you get the happier you are, so we’re going to add that rubber ourselves to the bottom. I think if they allowed us to work it in that might have maybe widened the groove out a little bit more – if they focused maybe in the middle. Either way, they’ve done a good job with getting rid of the bumps we had last year. Putting that two inches of asphalt all the way around and the tighter compact asphalt that’s here I think is gonna be a little bit better for getting rubber down as well.”

 

The most adamant about running the tire dragon was Brendan Gaughan.

 

“It’s stupid. They need to drag the lanes we don’t race. The lane we don’t practice in. Now, Kentucky has a lot of rain so that will wash lots of it away anyways. You could’ve done the upper two lanes and worked your way down. Lots of places could do that,” said Gaughan. “For some reason, someone doesn’t think thats a good idea. I don’t know why. I’d love to hear an answer for it. Nobody has ever given me one.”

 

Track officials stated that they did it because it worked during the Cup race last season. However, Gaughan was still not pleased with that answer noting that Cup races were shorter.

 

“There are 25 more teams that run harder than in this (Xfinity) series,’’ Gaughan said. “You have more people battling, more race cars, more laps to do it. It works great,” said Gaughan. “I think we’ve all seen in the media and the drivers, the tire dragon works great. … Then why not put it in the places that you want the track to grow to, not where you know that everybody wants to go?’’

 

Racing action from Kentucky Speedway kicks off with tonight’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Fox Sports 1.

After a crazy Saturday night at Daytona, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Kentucky Speedway for the Seventh Annual Quaker State 400.

40 drivers are slated to arrive at Kentucky Speedway for the event.

There have only been six events at Kentucky. Only three times has the race had a different pole winner and a different race winner. Only two races have been won from the pole with Brad Keselowski being the last one to do so in 2014. In 2012, Keselowski set the race record at 145.607 mph. Keselowski also set the qualifying record in 2014 at 188.791 mph.

This is the first time in two years that NASCAR is not testing out a new aero package to be run for the next season at Kentucky.

Teams will have four seats of tires for practice, one set for qualifying, and eight sets for the race. Teams will run the same led-side tire code as last year, but will receive a new right side code. Goodyears goal is to provide more grip and introduce more tire wear.

Drivers are excited about returning to Kentucky Speedway.

“I’m really looking forward to Kentucky this weekend. It has been a good track for us in the past. We have made some gains on our intermediate program so I think our Fords should show some speed this weekend. We will carry our momentum from our win at Daytona and hopefully can leave Kentucky with another strong run in our Fifth Third Ford,” said last week’s winner, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

“I really enjoy racing at Kentucky and I’m looking forward to making my first-career Cup start there this weekend. We’ve had some good runs there in the truck and XFINITY series over the years, so hopefully some of that can translate over to this weekend. We are coming off a good weekend in Daytona, and while we didn’t get the finish I think we deserved, I feel like we really built some momentum as a team heading into this weekend. I’m looking forward to getting on the track on Friday and hopefully coming away with a good finish on Saturday night for everyone involved with this ARRIS team, “ said Daniel Suarez.

"We only go to Kentucky once a year so it's a little different from a lot of the other tracks that we go to. It's a little busier schedule this weekend because of the two-day show but we're excited to unload and get on track. Since the repave, Kentucky has changed a ton and really only has one groove. It's hard to race single file so we're going to have to make the most out of restarts and qualify as good as possible,” said Matt DiBenedetto.

Teams will have two practice sessions at 10:00 a.m. EDT and 1:00 p.m. EDT on the NBC Sports App. Teams will qualify at 6:15 p.m. EDT on Friday on NBCSN and Performance Racing Network. The Quaker State 400 will be broadcasted on NBCSN and Performance Racing Network at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

For Matt DiBenedetto, his NASCAR career has been all about making “a lot out of a little”.

 

The 25-year old grew up in Grass Valley, California. Living in California, DiBenedetto would constantly ride four wheelers and dirt bikes from a very young age. From the get go, DiBenedetto considers himself “pretty much wide open and out of control.” At the age of five, DiBenedetto started watching NASCAR on his own by forcing his dad to stop flipping through television channels.

 

While playing baseball, the veteran driver went to a local track and watched his teammate race on dirt. From his first experience at the track, DiBenedetto continued to bug “the heck out of my dad to let me do that.” The ironic part for DiBenedetto is that nobody in his family had a racing background. “I came to the conclusion I must be adopted,” said DiBenedetto.

 

At the age of 12, the DiBenedetto family packed their bags and headed east to Hickory, North Carolina. DiBenedetto described that transition as “interesting” and a “culture shock”. 

 

“I was young so I couldn’t understand what we were doing. To me, we were winning everything out in California. I needed to pursue this to where racing is bigger. We were really naive,” said the veteran  driver.

 

Now, DiBenedetto considers North Carolina home and would not live anywhere else, even if he wasn’t racing.

 

At the age of 15, DiBenedetto started running Limited Late Models at Hickory Speedway.  While racing at Hickory, the veteran driver was running against Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), who had a development driver racing at Hickory. During that year, DiBenedetto won the championship. Winning that championship, the name “Matt DiBenedetto” began trinkling throughout the shop at JGR as someone who was “making a lot out of a little.”

 

“The word kinda got around the shop that we were doing a lot with a little, which has been the story of my career. They knew we were on a tight budget, didn’t have much to work with, winning races. It was a good way to get the word out,” said the 25-year old.

 

In 2009, at the age of 17, DiBenedetto was signed on at JGR as a developmental driver. “It was crazy. I could have cried that day. It was unexpected. I didn’t know it was coming. All of this happened really quick, it looked like a blurb,” DiBenedetto stated. During the time, the veteran driver ran in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series as well as a handful of NASCAR Xfinity Series events.

 

At Memphis Motorsports Park in 2009, DiBenedetto made his first NASCAR Xfinity Series start. “I was pretty naive. I was really excited. It was short track so it fit my background. I wasn’t too worried about it,” said DiBenedetto.

 

He started the weekend qualifying in the fourth position. DIBenedetto was running in the front for majority of the race until an incident on pit road sent him to the back of the field. Despite the incident, the 25 year old worked his way back towards the front passing drivers like Kyle Busch. The organization had a shot at winning, but was caught in the scuffle between Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards. DiBenedetto finished 14th that day.  “At the end of the all, I was frustrated we didn’t win. That was my mentality. I didn’t really understand how good were in my first race,” said DiBenedetto.

 

Ultimately, the relationship ended at JGR for DiBenedetto. He went back to running K&N as well as some start and park rides in Xfinity.  During that time, the veteran driver appreciated things more than he did before. Despite the circumstances, DiBenedetto continued to make a lot out of a little.

 

“Going about it this route, the day that I win a race, I will be crying like a little girl. I won’t care if I get any criticism for it because I had to work so hard to get there. I had to regroup and hit rock bottom,” DiBenedetto stated about this route.

 

When the call came from Ron Devine of BK Racing, things began to change quickly for DiBenedetto. The veteran drivers owes the ride to JD Gibbs, who called Devine.

 

“Man, it was cool. I owe a lot of that to JD Gibbs. Although I wasn’t at JGR, JD still called Ron and told him to give me an opportunity. So, obviously that weighed in heavily. The day I got the opportunity, I didn’t know if it was for one or two races,  but it turned into a full season turning around that 83 car from missing races to making it their top running car,” said DiBenedetto.

 

In 2016, at Bristol Motor Speedway, DiBenedetto scored his career best finish of sixth. For DiBenedetto, that sixth place finish is considered a “win”. “It was cool because I felt that I validated myself and showed that I can be in a position one day winning races. I have the ability to win races. I just worked the old school way,” the veteran driver stated.

 

 

Going into 2017, DiBenedetto made the personal and professional decision to leave BK Racing for GoFAS Racing. The decision to move came with backlash from peers that he would be ruining his career. However, that is not the case for DiBenedetto. “I felt like going to GoFAS had lots of potential taking a team that ran 38th to 40th last year, I was like we can go in there and turn it around making a lot out of a little. If we do that, it would turn a lot of heads,” said DiBenedetto. Sure enough, the team has turned heads. With a small budget, good sponsors, and dedicated crew members, the team is running significantly better than 2016.

 

“We had to battle some growing pains, but to take a team and grow it way more competitively, it reflects on all of us. To me, that was the best possibility,” said DiBenedetto.

 

At the beginning of the year, the crew at GoFAS was tired and exhausted putting in long hours making the cars better. For DiBenedetto, the beginning of the year thigh him how to be the cheerleader that motivates and keeps the team together, despite the long hours.

 

“At the beginning, we knew it was going to be a lot of work running a small budget and having the right people that know what needs to be done with the cars. To be honest, there were lots of guys who were very tired at the beginning of the year. It taught me a lot about keeping the group together and keep them motivated. I had to be a cheerleader for our guys because they would get tired and frustrated with so much work. It taught me a lot,” said DiBenedetto.

 

The team now feels prepared with the cars that they have in the shop. The long hours are still there, but they are more reasonable for the team. “Our guys are still working long hours, but reasonable. We are more caught up. It’s more relaxed from where we started the season,” said DiBenedetto.

 

In the first half of the season, the organization is confident and pleased with the speed and performance they have had. The organization knows where they need to run, who they should be running with, and who they should be beating. The team went through a four race stretch where things either broke or a tire was cut down, the team was encouraged where they were running before the incidents.

 

“As angry and frustrated we were at not finishing due to being rushed or overlooking some things, some smaller teams struggles, we were encouraged because we had a great car and we were running with Danica or the 95, people that have better equipment than us, we were outperforming. All it did was motivate us to take the extra time to dot out i’s and cross our t’s,” said DiBenedetto.

 

In his personal life, DiBenedetto has been married to his wife Taylor since 2015. Unlike many drivers, being married did not change his approach on racing. “It didn’t. My wife would be okay with me saying that racing comes first before everything,” said DiBenedetto.

 

As the many drivers within the NASCR garage have went to cycling, DiBenedetto is his own person by lifting weights in the gym.

 

“I like lifting weights because it is more mental than anything. I kinda have more of that build. It’s a big stress reliever. What we do for a living is really stressful,” said the 25-year old driver. “When i can go lift weights, it mentally makes me feel better and gets me through the racing struggle. It’s a way for me to be unique.”

 

For those who follow DiBenedetto on social media, they understand that DiBenedetto likes to have fun. Earlier this season, DiBenedetto made his Snapchat account public to be able to interact with the younger fan base. “Getting a reputation is an easy way for me to have fun with fans and share some of my racing life and the fun, normal side of me,” said DiBenedetto.

 

At the end of the day when the racing career comes to an end, the veteran driver wants to be known in the same way as Dale Earnhardt, Jr. DiBenedetto wants to be known as someone who was fan friendly and friendliest to his fans. “Obviously, everyone can say winning races and championships, that’s a given. What I want to be know on top of that would being the nicest and cares the most about his fans,” stated the veteran driver.

 

You can follow DiBenedetto on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @mattdracing. You can follow GoFAS Racing on Twitter and Facebook @GoFasRacing32.

Two Day Shows

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series could have easily had a two day show at Daytona International Speedway.

 

All the series did on Thursday afternoon was have two practice sessions. On Thursday, over half the teams did not even make a lap in the second and final practice session for each series, both sessions ran for 55 minutes.

 

The final Cup practice saw 19 drivers make a lap while the Xfinity Series had only 16 drivers made a lap.

 

On Friday, teams arrived at the track for qualifying that began at 2:00 p.m. EDT. NASCAR could have easily had one practice session of 90 minutes on Friday morning to save teams some money during the race weekend. Teams could have spent an extra day at home and save costs on hotels and travel.

 

The sanctioning body and teams should look at ways to reduce the race weekend down to two days in an effort to save on costs.

 

OT Line

The overtime line came into effect in the Coke Zero 400 and the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250. However, uproar from the line came during the Coca-Cola Firecracker 250.

 

When the green flag flew in NASCAR Overtime, the field had to reach the overtime line located towards the middle of the backstretch. Before the field reached the line in the Xfinity race, they were already wrecking. By the time the caution lights were illuminated, the field had already crossed the overtime line. That caused an uproar among fans and media about the delay.

 

After an explanation from NASCAR, the delay was ultimately deemed a human error. The delay was approximately two seconds. The delay was caused from recognizing the crash, calling the caution, and illuminating the caution lights.

 

Should the overtime line be updated? NASCAR is currently looking at overtime procedures to implement in the 2018 season.

 

Little Teams That Did

 

Racing at Daytona and Talladega are always good for the underfunded teams in NASCAR. The draft and restrictor plate racing is the cause of performance for these teams.

 

In the Xfinity Series, little teams that did include but are not limited to include Dakoda Armstrong (P3), Jeb Burton (P4), David Starr (P5), Ross Chastain (P6), and Joey Gase (P10).

 

In the Cup Series, little teams that did include, but are not limited to include Michael McDowell (P4), Brendan Gaughan (P7), Corey LaJoie (P11), and Matt DiBenedetto (P13).

 

For these teams, a good finish at the track does wonders to their budgets and their future.

 

Joey Logano And Locking Bumpers

In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, teams are forced by NASCAR to not be able to lock bumpers at restrictor plate events. If two teams lock bumpers, both teams will be given the black flag and penalized with a pass-through penalty.

 

According to Wayne Auton, Logano is a master at riding that fine line of bumping and locking the bumpers. That difference is so small and subtle that NASCAR has a hard time determining if it is a locking of bumpers.

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— When it comes to racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, being consistent on the track is an important factor.

 

For Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing, the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway. A fourth place finish extended their streak of consecutive top-25 finishes to seven. McDowell and the team also earned their best finishing individually and as a team on Saturday.

 

McDowell qualified in the 23rd position, but reported no issues to the car at the beginning of the race. When the first caution flag flew, Todd Parrott, crew chief, brought McDowell down for tires only and then would bring him down during the competition caution for fuel only just six laps later.

 

With the strategy from the pit box, McDowell and Leaving Family Racing scored their first stage points, where he finished sixth.

 

The second stage began with McDowell being forced down pit road to avoid a wreck entering into the tri-oval. For the team, they were able to get a caution a couple laps later to assess the damage they may have received from entering pit road at a high rate of speed.

 

After fixing damage, McDowell worked his way to the top-10, but avoided a wreck. However, McDowell was unable to score stage points in the second stage.

 

When the third stage began, McDowell was able to avoid numerous wrecks. With 50 laps remaining, Parrott called McDowell pit road to fix a tire rub and to gather enough fuel to the finish. When the final caution flew and sent the race into NASCAR Overtime, McDowell restarted fifth. He worked his way up to second, but fell back to the fourth position.

 

"It was a great run for us. Really building off the Daytona 500 where we were in the top-five and ran out of gas. We really had a fast car. The boys did a great job. It wasn't without trouble. We were around a lot of the carnage out there.  There was just a lot of hard racing out there tonight,” said McDowell after the race. “Three-wide, bumper-to-bumper all night long. It is great to have a top-five. Really excited about that. Coming to the white, I thought I might have had a shot at it. But Ricky and I were just too far out and those cars behind us had a big run. Very thankful for the opportunity. We have great people.  They are relentless. They work hard. Everybody back at the shop. ECR power under the hood, that helps."

 

With his fourth place finish, McDowell moved up in the points standings to 25th.