Saturday Night – Under the Lights at Kentucky from a NASCAR Fan’s View

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Rusty Norman
There is more than one thing good about the race in Kentucky tonight and that is that it will be a night race. With the temperatures possibly hitting triple digits during the day everyone, from the fans to the drivers and crews will be happy they can escape at least some of the heat. If it were a daytime race on a Sunday afternoon, it would be hot. As it is, it will be hot, just not as hot.

So, what is the big deal about the heat near the end of June and the race at the Kentucky Speedway. Well, probably not too much, at least comparing the night-time race to the practice sessions during those hot daytime hours. If anything, it just means the crew chiefs will have to earn their money if they want to keep up with the changing track conditions as they transition from early evening into the night.

I can hear a chorus of you saying right now, “So…. what’s the big deal?!?”

Well, as I mentioned earlier, not too much.

From my view, it was more something for the TV commentators to talk about during the practice and qualifying sessions. In fact, the qualifying session proved one thing about the track when it cools down – it gets a lot faster! What that will mean in tonight’s race remains to be seen but, from this fan’s view, I hope it really doesn’t turn into a one car dominated race as it did in the Nationwide race last night. Well, that is unless the guy I want to see win is dominating the rest of the field… (ha, ha, ha..Yes I’m kidding… )

Okay, I admit it… I like close competition, especially in the final laps of a race. Last week’s race at Sonoma had a caution near the end of it and it made the last several laps much more interesting than was actually was going to be. Clint Bowyer had the field covered last weekend and even though there was that caution, he ended up winning over Kurt Bush by driving the wheels off his race car. From my view, it’s just that it was a lot more interesting to watch than it was going to be.

The interesting thing about the Kentucky Speedway is that it is just a bit precarious especially in turns three and four, but essentially, there are bumps in other places too. The drivers say the bumps give the track character and they do but, I’m not willing to day how much that character will add to the drama later in the race tonight.

From my view, I think the thing that could add to the drama is how closely many of the cars qualified after the delay and the track cool-down. Unless one or two of the teams hit it just right and there are very few caution flags, it could be a very interesting night in Kentucky.

Unfortunately, this has been a year of fewer than normal caution flags during a race. There are many theories as to why that is but that isn’t my point here. The point is, the teams that miss the setup to begin with will be hard pressed to make changes to their cars without losing a lot of track position unless there are some times they can make those adjustments without losing track position. It is a known fact, cautions allow that to happen, but if things go as they usually have for most of this season, they can’t be depended upon. From this fan’s view, that puts all the more pressure on the teams to have the cars right when they hit the track. That way they just need to keep up with the changing track conditions as the race progresses.

From this fan’s view, the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky tonight could be full of surprises. I know Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Bush are fast and they do start on the front row. What I don’t know is if they can stay up front for the whole race. In fact, Denny Hamlin and just about anyone in the top 25 could end up in Victory Lane tonight, but even qualifying doesn’t tell the whole story about the possibilities since the track cooled down at least forty degrees about in the middle of it. It is my opinion (and I’ve said this many times before) qualifying does not tell how the race will go. Sure, it is important to start at or near the front but this is a 400 mile race and going into it there are a lot of uncertainties.

“Racing Luck” is another thing that no one can predict. Although many have had their bouts with racing luck this year, several that stand out would be Kyle Bush, Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon. Of these three (and there are others) Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon have had the worst of it this year. It’s not that they haven’t been competitive, it’s just that thing I call the old “R-L Beast” has reared its ugly head more than once for all three of them.

So am I saying Racing Luck could be the deciding factor in tonight’s race???

No, not really. What I am saying is that even though several will be watching those starting up front, I’m looking for some real surprises coming from the middle of the lineup in the Quaker State 400 tonight. I admit it’s definitely going to be track position, fuel mileage,tire management and of course no mistakes on pit road that will be most important tonight. But wouldn’t it be interesting to see Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Bush fighting it out on the final laps, instead of recounting how good they were running before the “Racing Luck beast” took them out of contention for a change… ?

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© June 30, 2012 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, and
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