NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2011 Quaker State 400 at Kentucky

Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind Saturday night’s inaugural race at Kentucky? Amy Henderson has you covered with her journalistic rendition of the Big Six questions everyone wanted to ask after the race…

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

He may have had to settle for a second-place finish, but David Reutimann did it in fine fashion, beating series champion Jimmie Johnson at the line – a feat that’s hard to lay claim to as Johnson is a bulldog when it comes to protecting a finish. But Reutimann was able to pass Johnson in the tri-oval, and might have had something for race winner Kyle Busch if he’d had a few more laps. Plus, unlike the All-Star event, he didn’t have to endure being called “Rooty-tooty fresh and fruity” from the booth. That’s a bonus no matter where you finish.

What… was THAT?

After the amount of time and money Kentucky Speedway spent to get a Sprint Cup date, there should have been something done about the traffic pattern for fans coming to the races. Fans did not pay good money for race tickets to sit in traffic for upwards of three hours on the way to the track. As Denny Hamlin said on Twitter:

I saw another tweet from a fan who said that after spending $200 on race tickets, he was watching from his hotel room because of the backup, which was nearly 20 miles long on Interstate 71.

https://twitter.com/Danny744/status/89825413307695104?s=20

Cars were reportedly still entering the speedway gate more than halfway into the race, and worse, fans were reportedly being turned away if they arrived after that time.

It looked like speedway management paid no mind to traffic and parking whatsoever, despite nearly doubling the seating capacity. If SMI can’t fix the problem, perhaps NASCAR should take away the race and award it to a track that can handle traffic. Not like the racing is so great it’s worth the wait.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

After what was almost an exciting duel to the finish, Busch ended up exactly where he started. After a dominant performance, Busch joins the likes of Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart as inaugural race winners… but unlike the rest of them, he swept both qualifying and the main event. Perhaps more importantly, the win also handed Busch the series points lead.

When… will I be loved?

The villain this week wasn’t anyone on the track, it was the track. Kentucky Speedway not only turned fans away who had spent many hours in traffic waiting to get to the facility (see above), but the racing could have taken place at any other 1.5-mile track on the circuit with approximately the same results – a boring event between cars that are too aerodynamically dependent to put on a good show at any track over a mile in length. And the winner of the race? Poor guy wasn’t even the main story of the night, thanks to a track that hosted a race before it was equipped to do so. The main headlines after a Cup show should never be about how terrible the facility was, but that bad experience is what many, many fans will take away from this weekend.

Why… the heck do we need a Nationwide race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

The bottom line? Because the Cup race is a lousy draw and NASCAR hopes to boost attendance by offering a doubleheader. Will that work? It’s doubtful – many fans already went to both the Nationwide race at Lucas Oil Speedway and the Brickyard 400 anyway. And, let’s face it: IMS is a terrible track for stock cars. The racing there is mediocre on a good day, while the racing at LOR is nearly guaranteed to be barn-burning exciting. Not to mention that race had 40,000 in the stands for the Nationwide event last year; in my opinion, IMS will be lucky to draw half that, and 20,000 in that cavern is as good as empty. Just another reminder that the R in NASCAR means revenue, not racing.

How… many of the drivers currently in the top 10 will still be there after Richmond?

Given the money and prowess of their entire teams, it’s tempting to say at least eight, if not nine of them. But given the fickle nature of racing and the speed in which good luck and go bad, I think it’s safe to say that the top seven are safe. Five drivers (Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Johnson and Matt Kenseth) are within 22 points of Kyle Busch’s lead. But then there’s a gap of 50 points between Kenseth and seventh-place Jeff Gordon. However, Gordon is 55 markers up on 13th place and with two wins, so even if he does fall out of the top 10 (he’s currently 22 points to the good), he should make the 12-car Chase field in a wild-card spot with his two wins.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 18 points on the good side of 10th, but he’ll need to stop the bleeding soon to keep a spot. As of now, there is no wild card option for Earnhardt, who is winless this year. In even more jeopardy of falling out of the top 10 are Hamlin and Ryan Newman, who are just three and 11 points ahead of 11th place, respectively. The top 10 isn’t carved in stone, but the names are starting to be penciled in.

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