Cup drivers offer their views on Kentucky
(Defending winner) KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Red-White-Blue Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
"Last year we were really fast at Kentucky. We unloaded really well and we were quick. We had that open test day and were fast. We were fastest in practice and then qualifying actually got rained out, so it gave us the automatic pole, but I still say we won the pole. It was a great race for us. We started up front, we led some laps and Kurt (Busch) led some laps. It was cool to battle with Kurt for a while. I remember Kurt was up there, (Brad) Keselowski was there, Jimmie Johnson got up there -- David Reutimann finished second there at the end. A lot of good cars and a lot of really fast guys that we had to deal with and race hard."
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – 3rd IN STANDINGS:
“Kentucky is kind of wide, but it’s difficult to pass. The second groove has some good grip, so it will be real hard to get underneath guys and get around them. It’s got a lot of bumps, too. I don’t mind the bumps that bad; they definitely add a new dimension in the corners.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S ERMINE WHITE CHEVROLET – 4th IN STANDINGS:
“Really how rough the track is. My first laps there from the test session last year when we went, I felt like the bumps were going to make the car lose grip and spin out and be out of control, but there is so much grip there that even with as rough and as bumpy as it is, you stand on the gas and carry a ton of speed and just bounce around. Those are the things I had to overcome when I got on the track last year.
“It’s the roughest and fastest track we go to; well, Atlanta is fast, but there are big swells and I still don’t feel like we’re driving as hard at Atlanta as we are at Kentucky. Kentucky, you’re driving it like a freshly repaved track. You have high frequency bumps and banking doing weird things. It’s a fun track for those reasons and it has a lot of character to it.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET – 5th IN STANDINGS:
“I guess the biggest thing about it is for those of us who haven’t run Nationwide or Truck races there, we still only have one race at that track. So, we’re still figuring out. It’s got a lot of bumps, so that makes it very challenging. Trying to figure out exactly where to be, where to try to get around some of the bumps, how to get through them better, how to get the car to go through them better – those are challenges that kind of make it fun, because it’s not just flat and easy to get around.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER FOLDS OF HONOR CHEVROLET – 6th IN STANDINGS:
"As a company we struggled there (Kentucky Speedway) last year. It was just a long weekend for us. We've obviously looked at this particular race for a while trying to figure out exactly what we needed to do differently from last year, so we've got a lot of different things to try and hopefully we'll run better this year."
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 TORNADOS CHEVROLET – 13th IN STANDINGS:
“It’s got a lot of character because it’s pretty bumpy and I enjoy it. I enjoy the race there. It was interesting. That was kind of our first experience with going into a race track and getting more practice sessions and more time on the race track before we actually started our weekend. We learned a lot there about Kentucky, having not tested there for a while. I look forward to going back there; not just because we ran well there last year, but because it’s a fun race track.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/SYLVANIA CHEVROLET – 14th IN STANDINGS:
“It was pretty good. The bottom groove was the preferred line, but [the track] opened up quite a bit. The Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series have been running there for a long time so the track was well-seasoned. It’s got some bumps and some character. It’s a lot of fun to race there. It’s a little like Kansas (Speedway), just little bigger and a wider. Kentucky (Speedway) is unique though, because it’s not a new track. It’s an old track, just new to the Sprint Cup Series. We’ve all run thousands of miles there testing and in the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series, so it’s fun to actually get to race there now.”
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 QUAKER STATE CHEVROLET – 17th IN STANDINGS:
“The No. 5 team has been at its best on the intermediate ovals. We had a streak of really strong races, and then caught some bad luck the last few weeks. I think we have a good chance to turn things around in Kentucky.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – 18th IN STANDINGS:
"If you could have picked [the No. 24 car] up (from 20th-place in the running order) and placed it in the top seven or eight, we could have stayed there and maybe battled with the leaders. We just needed track position. The track is very challenging. It's the same thing that makes it difficult to pass any race weekend - usually because it's a one-groove race track. There are pretty severe bumps getting into turn three, so it's hard to run side-by-side because you get really loose underneath somebody. And the pace is pretty fast - you carry good speed through the corners here. It's just hard to get an edge on the competition.
"[Traffic] certainly dominated the conversation on Twitter. I think (Speedway Motorsports, Inc., chairman) Bruton (Smith) and that group have a lot of pressure on them this year to make sure that doesn't happen again. I don't know if you can fix it all at once, but I feel confident that they are going to make some huge strides. I think it is going to be a much better experience for all of the fans."
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET – 19th IN STANDINGS:
“It was better than I expected it to be. Honestly, I didn’t have high expectations going to Kentucky (Speedway) after testing there a few times. I didn’t think it was going to be a race track where I felt like we could put on a good show for the fans. The race proved me wrong and it was a good race. The surface is a little rougher than I would like. Sprint Cup Series cars seem to race better on smoother surfaces, but all-in-all I was pleasantly surprised.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 MCDONALD’S CHEVROLET – 20th IN STANDINGS:
“I’m looking forward to heading back to Kentucky so we can get better results than last year. I raced at Kentucky a few times early in my career in the Truck Series and Nationwide, and really liked the track. Our first time there in the Sprint Cup Series last year was good until we lost an engine after halfway. We will look to have a strong weekend with our McDonald’s Chevrolet this time around. I know that the track took a lot of heat last year for traffic concerns; however I think that overshadowed the great turn out of fans from the area that are excited to have and support NASCAR racing at the track.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – 22nd IN STANDINGS:
“Kentucky is still a new track for us and we haven’t gotten it completely figured out but we were fast there last year. If I hadn’t gotten that pit road penalty in the closing laps we would of easily left there with a top-10 finish. I’m hoping for some better luck this time around. The Target team is really coming together. We haven’t had the results we want to have, but there have been a lot of really good changes and we’ve been putting people in the right place. Now we just need the results to show it.”
REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW CHEVROLET – 25th IN STANDINGS:
"Considering what we've been through the past few weeks, I am looking forward to getting back to a mile-and-a-half track. We haven't had the rhythm lately and that has cost us in both performance and points. We've also experienced late-race incidents that made things even worse. We need a lift and Kentucky could be the place. I've always enjoyed racing there. I recall being on the pole for a Nationwide race and had a shot at winning until a fuel issue halted our march to victory lane. We need to click for the entire race -- two weeks ago in Michigan it was a flat tire with fewer than 10 laps remaining and in Sonoma we got caught up in a final lap multicar wreck. Our Furniture Row Chevy at Kentucky will again include the "I Brake for Trains" bumper sticker, which is part of CSX Transportation Play it Safe campaign to encourage pedestrian and motorist safety around railroad crossings."
KURT BUSCH, NO. 51 PHOENIX CONSTRUCTION SERVICES INC. – 27th IN STANDINGS:
“It was almost a challenge to see who was able to adapt to the track the quickest and the best. My little brother (Kyle) did a great job. He ran up front through the whole race. I ran second early in the race last year but I faded at the end because our car was dragging the racetrack due to the temperature change and the cooling down. So that’s one of the things I’ll look forward to conquering this year. The track changes a good bit from the 6 o’clock start to the 10 o’clock finish.”
DAVE BLANEY, NO. 36 SEAL WRAP CHEVROLET – 33rd IN STANDINGS:
“Racing last year at Kentucky in the Cup Series was really good. The track is wide which makes for good racing. The track is a mile-and-a-half track, but it is quite a bit different than any other mile-and-a-half track. It is flatter, bumpier and a different shape than most. I’m really excited to watch Ryan get back to racing in the Nationwide Series this weekend.”
DAVID REUTIMANN, NO. 10 TOMMY BALDWIN RACING CHEVROLET – 34th IN STANDINGS:
“I like mile and a half tracks. I ran well at Kentucky last year. I always liked the track even when I raced there in the Nationwide and Truck Series. It’s a cool racetrack and one where I have ran well. I am really looking forward to being back in the No. 10 car this weekend too.”