Heading into Saturday night’s race at Kentucky Speedway, there were a lot of unknowns with the newly repaved and reconfigured track surface, but it didn’t take long for the track to claim its first victims.
Jimmie Johnson, who had never won at Kentucky in five previous starts, had troubles with the track from the time his No. 48 team unloaded, spinning out and crashing his primary car in practice and having to break out his backup car for the race. Though Johnson would be able to start sixth as a result of qualifying being rained out and the lineup being set by 2016 owner’s points, it wouldn’t take long before Johnson and Kentucky weren’t seeing eye to eye again.
Heading through Turn 3 and 4 on lap 32, Johnson got loose underneath Ryan Blaney and lost control of his car as it washed up the track, spinning into the outside wall and causing significant damage to the rear of his car. Johnson would have to limp his car back to the garage so his team could start working on getting it repaired and back on track.
Shortly after Johnson had his issues, Joey Logano joined him after getting into the wall once earlier in the race and then cutting down a right-front tire on lap 53 heading into Turn 3. Logano slammed into the outside wall and had to take his No. 22 car back to the attention of the crew in the garage to see if they could get his car fixed and back in the race.
“I was just looking at the tire in there. I got loose and hit the wall about 10 laps before that and the car got really loose when you tap the right-rear quarter over. You’re trying to slow down a lot and the brakes started going away and I don’t know what happened after that, if a rotor blew up or what made the tire go down, but the right-front went flat and I was pretty much along for the ride after that. I hit a ton, so I’m pretty impressed by the way the safety is in these race cars. That was one of the hardest hits I’ve had in a while. I had a long time to look at the wall before I hit it and not really slow down much before I got there and I’m alright, so it’s pretty cool to get through that. It just kind of stinks for our race team to be crashed out so early in the race, but we’ll just go back to Loudon and go back to work,” said Logano.
In the next three cautions that followed Johnson and Logano’s incidents, several other drivers also felt the wrath of Kentucky, with Matt Dibenedetto, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher, Brian Scott, and AJ Allmendinger all suffering damage, ranging from minor damage on some cars to major damage on others.
With the race not even to halfway, the Quaker State 400 is shaping up to be a war of attrition as the night rolls on.