Kentucky Speedway is one of the newest stops on the Sprint Cup Schedule but it seems to me that it has the surface of an old track; bumpy and cantankerous. It’s almost like taking a step backwards to a time when racing was racing, to a time when the vehicle you raced was one you had driven off the showroom floor, when the stock in stock car racing was true.
Tony qualified his number 14 Rush Truck Centers Chevrolet 13th for the Quaker State 400. If you are still unfamiliar with the new “knockout qualifying” format- this means he was the best of the drivers who didn’t advance to the final round of 12 drivers in qualifying. Honestly it isn’t a bad effort if you look at Tony’s qualifying record over the length of his career. I decided on a lark to listen to qualifying at work using my listen online function of SiriusXM for the first time. I have to say just as with the first time I listened to the race on SiriusXM I loved listened to qualifying for the first time with the PRN crew. They really do do an excellent job. I will definitely make this a regular occurrence as often as I can since qualifying does tend to be while I am at work.
Then on the morning of the race, I checked twitter to see what the weather was like and saw that Tony would have to start from the rear of the field because they changed out a transmission that morning. All that work and technically he’d be starting 42nd (there was only a 42 car field this race). Despite that both Tony and Chad sounded optimistic about their race at the start of the race on the scanners.
I was pretty optimistic myself when I saw that by lap 10 Tony had worked his way up to 27th. Not bad considering he was 42nd. The 14′s handling was far from perfect and Tony seemed to be struggling again on restarts- which was an issue that I thought had been resolved a couple of weeks ago. Every caution Tony brought the 14 Rush Truck Centers Chevy to pit road and every the crew made some sort of adjustment including trackbar, air pressure and even adding tape on the grill at least once that I heard (I remember it distinctly because Tony seemed quite excited when Chad told him they were going to add tape). After every restart, Tony would lose ground – usually between three and five positions during the first couple of laps. Then he would start to work his way forward again. And this was the forward and backwards movement of the 14 throughout the race.
By lap 200 Tony had worked his car into the top 10 and seemed the happiest he had been all night with the handling. What really impressed me the most about the whole thing- was that the team’s improved track position was just solely because he had driven the car through the field- none of it was due to any sort of pit strategy. This was a positive to me because it meant that the car was maneuverable.
During the last set of pit stops under caution, Tony again fell back a little during the restart but had worked his way back up to 11th where he was stymied for several laps through the end of the race. That 11th place finish moved Tony back into 16th in the points- however he is still winless so far.
Race winner was Brad Keselowski who gained his second win of the season at Kentucky.
Notes on Kentucky:
1. Brad Keselowski had to make an unscheduled pit stop between victory lane and the post victory media center obligations: To the Infield Medical Center! Keselowski sliced his hand on a broken champagne bottle and showed up at the media center bandaged and with four stitches.
2. Can we talk about Kevin Harvick and his performance for a moment. Why are people continuing to talk about his poor performance this season. Doesn’t he have two wins this season? Just because his pit crew has made a couple of missteps and his car has suffered some unfortunate failures this is not a mark of a poor season. He’s currently 6th in points with two wins. That’s sitting fairly solid to me. I dare say he is a strong contender right now for the final four if he continues running the way he is running.
3. I like Saturday night races! I wish more of them were Saturday night!
The Gratuitous Tony Stewart Pictures:
Next weekend we are racing under the lights at Daytona for the Firecracker 400 (because that is what it is always going to be called in my head).
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