Kentucky Story Lines
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on June 28, 2014 | 3:00 P.M. EST
Aric Almirola: "There are jumps in the frontstrech. It's rough because the suspension rates are so high and the cars are so low to the ground you bottom out and you bounce, you shake and you try not to bite your tongue." (Photo: Getty Images)
SPARTA, Ky. – Saturday night’s fourth annual Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway has a number of stories to watch.
Kentucky’s racing surface may be the roughest in NASCAR and drivers have battled with its worn out characteristics all weekend. While most seem to embrace the challenge, all acknowledge it will impact tonight’s race in terms of handling, set-up and tire wear.
“I was in Michigan not too long ago and it’s kind of like running on the roads in Michigan," said Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Ford. "There are a lot of potholes up there, so it’s pretty rough. I think I remember seeing video of Ryan Newman having to adjust his helmet back when I was in the Nationwide Series. I was watching one of the Cup races and I remember this race track being like that for a while, so it’s kind of pothole after pothole. It doesn’t get that same effect, but it definitely upsets the car and moves it around."
But even with the challenges the track surface presents, drivers enjoy it.
"I think if you asked any of us drivers, we enjoy it, especially coming off of places like Michigan – the race track – and Pocono, where it’s new pavement," Stenhouse Jr. said. "We definitely prefer the surface here at Kentucky, but it’s really rough. Down the front straightaways is probably one of the roughest places – three and four. One and two is not too bad and I think that’s why we see the groove pretty wide down there. We kind of run all over the place. The bumps on the bottom of three and four are pretty bad.”
The track has a large bump coming off Turn 4 and more near the start-finish line. Aric Almirola took Motor Racing Network around the track this afternoon in the Ford Fusion pace car to show us just how rough the track is.
"There are jumps in the frontstrech," Almirola said. "It's rough because the suspension rates are so high and the cars are so low to the ground - you bottom out, you bounce, you shake and you try not to bite your tongue."
Roush Fenway Struggles
Last week in Sonoma Carl Edwards quieted the concerns around Roush Fenway Racing with his victory in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. But the spotlight is back on the team this weekend as the series returned to a 1.5-mile track at Kentucky after a so far lackluster performance. Edwards and teammates Greg Biffle and Stenhouse Jr. struggled in both practice and qualifying as RFR continues to search for answers.
Gordon Looks to Run the Table
Jeff Gordon has a win on every current track on the Sprint Cup Series schedule except one – Kentucky. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has not finished outside the top 10 in his three previous Kentucky starts and looks to cross the Bluegrass State off his list tonight.
Penske Powers On
Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano turned in another one of Team Penske’s stellar qualifying efforts with a front row sweep for tonight’s race. Penske has for the most part been a powerhouse for Ford, especially at intermediate tracks with Keselowski and Logano combining for three wins. The pair was frustrated last week in Sonoma and would like nothing better than a return to form at Kentucky.
Kenseth Still Searching
The defending Quaker State 400 winner Matt Kenseth has yet to win in 2014 after finding Victory Lane seven times a year ago. If not for the much-publicized woes of RFR, there would be much more scrutiny on Joe Gibbs Racing, which as a group has also been mired in a fund for the last two months. Kenseth admitted his team needs to find speed in order to get back to its winning ways of a year ago.