Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Preview

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season is officially at the halfway point, crossing the threshold last weekend in Daytona. To kick off the second half of the season, the series heads to the Bluegrass State for Saturday night’s running of the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Kentucky first joined the Cup Series schedule in 2011 and has played host ever since, with just four different drivers claiming victory in the eight races held at the track so far. The track was known as the roughest track on the schedule with bumps throughout the surface of the track, but now features a new and improved Kentucky Speedway after undergoing a repave and reconfiguration in early 2016.

In addition to the fresh coat of asphalt that the track received, the track has different banking on each end of the track. Turns 1 and 2 had their banking increased to 17 degrees, while Turns 3 and 4 are banked at 14 degrees.

By the Numbers

What: Quaker State 400, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 19 of 36

Where: Kentucky Speedway – Sparta, Kentucky (Opened: 2000, First Cup Race: 2011)

When: July 13, 2019

TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network, 7:30 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size: 1.5-mile tri-oval

Race Length: 267 laps, 400.5 miles

Banking: 17 degrees (Turns 1-2), 14 degrees (Turns 3-4)

Stage Lengths: First two stages: 80 laps each; Final Stage: 107 laps

Pit Road Speed: 45 mph

Pace Car Speed: 55 mph

July 2018 Race Winner: Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota (Started on pole, 174 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota (28.379 seconds, 190.282 mph – 7/07/2017)

Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings:

  1. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 124.4
  2. Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 109.6
  3. Martin Truex Jr. – No. 19 Toyota – 105.7
  4. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 105.5
  5. Erik Jones – No. 20 Toyota – 99.2
  6. Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 95.1
  7. Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Ford – 94.7
  8. Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 91.2
  9. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet – 90.5
  10. Kurt Busch – No. 1 Chevrolet – 89.3

From the Driver’s Seat

“When we think about the Kentucky Speedway, we think about the entry into Turn 3 and how flat it is there,” said Darrell Wallace, Jr. “And, I know the old repave was our worst nightmare on the schedule – just because it is so hard to keep traction in the rear of the car when you entered in that corner, especially on long runs.

“With the new repave though, it’s added a little bit of grip back but the ‘getting light and kind of going over the hill’ feeling is still here. So, it’s still a challenge within itself. Kentucky Speedway is such a smooth race track now. It’s fast.

“With the package we had last year, we were almost wide-open in Turn 1 and Turn 2. Now this year, we will definitely be wide-open. Turn 3 will be exciting to see how this new package will go hand-in-hand with that, and see what kind of challenges it will provide there.”

Last Time at Kentucky

For the second year in a row, Martin Truex dominated at Kentucky Speedway, besting his 2017 effort by winning the pole and then going on to win both stages before setting his sights on a return to Victory Lane at the 1.5-mile track.

That victory was never in doubt down the stretch as he beat Ryan Blaney by 1.901 seconds, leading 174 laps en route to the win.

The remainder of the top-10 went to Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano.

“Man, what an awesome night,” said Truex. “I mean, what a race car. Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and Jazzy and James and Pete and all the guys came up with one hell of a setup for here and we thought we were good yesterday and we tweaked on it for today and my goodness this thing was good, so get tired of thanking everybody, but I don’t. I mean, there’s a lot of people we couldn’t do this without – all of my partners, all the guys at TRD (Toyota Racing Development).

“What can I say about the team and Barney (Visser, team owner) and everybody that gives us the things we need. JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) chassis shop and body shop for their collaboration making this possible and just this is one hell of a race team. I’m so lucky to be out for them just enjoying myself and say hi to Sherry (Pollex) at home, say hi to everybody back home in Jersey and Bass Pro – Johnny (Morris) wasn’t here tonight. John Paul (Morris) was here, so we’re going to drink a cold beer, but Auto-Owners Insurance, 5-Hour, Furniture Row – again, just everybody that helps us out. This is so much fun I can’t even tell you.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, July 12

  • MENCS Practice (11:35 am to 12:25 pm – NBC Sports Network)
  • MENCS Final Practice (1:35 pm to 2:25 pm – NBC Sports Network)
  • MENCS Qualifying (6:00 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Saturday, July 13

  • NENCS Quaker State 400 at Kentucky (7:30 pm – 267 laps, 400.5 miles – NBC Sports Network)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.