The first NASCAR national series race at Kentucky Speedway in 2000 suffered serious problems getting the 66,000 spectators in and out of the track, with heavy congestion all around the circuit and the I-71 choked with traffic. Last night’s Quaker State 400 was the first ever visit by the Sprint Cup Series and in the meantime the capacity had been increased to 107,000, all of which had sold out in anticipation of the inaugural visit from the sport’s stars.
It really shouldn’t have come as any surprise, then, that 100 laps into the race the roads leading to the speedway were still choked with cars carrying people hoping to see the racing. Cars still trying to get in even though the organisers had simply run out of room in which to park them; and cars trying to get in whilst the authorities were changing the routing ready for the post-race exodus.
Before the Sprint Cup Series returns to Kentucky thought is going to need to be given to smoothing the flow of traffic in and out of the track and finding enough space to park all of the cars, trucks and RVs that bring the fans to see their heroes.
Still, at least one person was able to smile at the gridlocked roads.
The race itself was more or less owned by Kyle Busch. He led a race high 125 of the 267 laps and even on the laps he didn’t lead he was never very far from the top spot. On one particularly long green flag run of just over one hundred laps Busch had built a lead of over eight seconds, nullified by a caution called for the ubiquitous “debris on the track.”
For most of the race Busch’s competition came from the Dodge pairing of Brad Keselowski and the leader’s elder brother, Kurt Busch. Between them they led one hundred and twenty laps and each of them had their moments of outrunning the younger brother but poor restarts in the last few laps meant their eventual finishing positions of seventh and ninth respectively belied their competitiveness on the night.
The other drivers to run together in the leading group were Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and David Reutimann and it was the dice between the latter pair which gave Kyle Busch the breathing space he needed in the last two lap dash to the finish following a caution period caused when Clint Bowyer took a hard hit against the outside wall.
As the green flag was waved at the start of lap 266 it was Busch and Johnson racing side-by-side. Busch had learned enough during the race to know to pick the high line to start on and although the champion made him fight for his place the top line prevailed part way round the lap.
“He got a good start,” Busch said of Johnson. “We had to race down into Turn 1 side-by-side rather than me getting a jump on him. I was just hoping that the outside lane would prevail, I could get a run through there, carry my momentum and clear him down the backstretch, and just kind of race him into Turn 3. It was certainly a tense moment there for a second. But after I took the white, I saw the 00 [car of Reutimann] coming on the 48 [of Johnson] and getting there to make a move on him. I was like, ‘C’mon, Reuty. If you start racing him and starting hold him up, that’s going to help me.’ I could not just cruise through Turns 3 and 4, but [could] concentrate on hitting my marks rather than seeing if somebody would get in my mirror.”
Busch’s win means he has swapped places in the points table with Kevin Harvick, the former taking the lead with four points over Carl Edwards who finished fifth on the night, and ten points over Harvick. Kurt Busch maintains his fourth position and Johnson has climbed one place to fifth with Matt Kenseth making the opposite switch.
There is just twenty-two points between these six with the rest of the field at least forty-nine points behind Kenseth meaning the top six are to all intents and purposes locked into The Chase barring any major mishaps.
Whilst at Kentucky Speedway Kyle Busch had already won the Camping World Truck Series race and come third in the Nationwide Series race to add to this Sprint Cup win, a total of over 920 racing miles plus, of course, all the practice laps. And Busch’s Saturday night win takes him to a total of 99 wins in NASCAR’s major series.
So you would think he would have been feeling pretty pleased with himself and ready to relax and celebrate a little, wouldn’t you? But that is to misunderstand the mind of Kyle Busch. I mean – what was he supposed to do on Sunday night with all the racing done and dusted on Saturday?
Why – travel to the Slinger Super Speedway in Wisconsin, a journey of about 420 miles, to take part in a Late Model event on Sunday evening of course! A bit like Jenson Button after winning a Sunday Grand Prix turning up at Oulton Park on Bank Holiday Monday to take part in a Formula Renault race.
And it was the pre-arranged decision to enter that race which meant Busch could smile to himself as he was told of the gridlocked roads outside the Kentucky Speedway. He had always planned for another night sleeping in his motorhome on the infield before making the trip north on Sunday morning.