Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rating the Quaker State 400: 2 Stars **

Kyle Busch stunk up the show in the Sprint Cup Series debut at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night to add his name to the list of active driver who have won a track’s inaugural race. Unfortunately, the first-ever Kentucky race barely scratched out a 2 Star Rating.

Lots of hype preceded Saturday night’s race. This track is old and bumpy, with lots of “character,” something a lot of tracks lack these days. However, instead of making for a close, exciting race, there was hardly a green-flag pass for the lead after the Busch brothers settled their early race battle.

NASCAR has raced at Chicagoland Speedway on this weekend for the past 10 years, but this race could have easily been run at Chicago. Shoot, David Reutimann nearly won again. Maybe he thought they were still at Chicago.

This race also played out similar to a bad race at Richmond. Sometimes a driver, and Busch has done this in the past, will dominate the majority of a race at that track amid several different pit strategies that shake up the entire field. That situation is even worse now with the wave-around rules.

It’s not terribly surprising one team absolutely dominated this race because nobody had any notes on the track coming into the weekend. Any time there is a big change in the sport, a few teams tend to jump out from the pack for a while before everyone else catches up. That’s part of what happened at Kentucky, and future races will likely be better than what we saw Saturday.

It’s also not surprising that Busch won this race. Jeff Gordon has won three inaugural races, including Indianapolis, California and Kansas. At the time of those races, from 1994 to 2001, he was the best driver in the sport. He was the guy who chased all-time records.

Well, 10 years later Kyle Busch is the new Jeff Gordon. Busch is a brash, hard-charging young driver with loads of talent. He wins regularly and is starting to climb up the all-time ranks where talk about the big records starts to become relevant.

When Busch is nearing age 40, we will likely look back on all of his special achievements in racing. The great ones just seem to capitalize on big moments, and winning the first Cup race at Kentucky is one of them. Busch is still becoming a great driver. He has already accomplished a lot, but the next step will be winning the big races and being a consistent contender for the championship.

He has already won at Darlington, but don’t be surprised if he starts winning races such as the Brickyard 400, Coca-Cola 600 and contend for the Daytona 500 in coming years. The great drivers win these races, and Busch is a part of that class.

Now it’s time to head up north to New Hampshire to put in 301 grueling laps. It will be a while before the series returns to a track with significant banking. The next four races are all flat tracks, so a team could start to make a charge toward the Chase if they hit on a good, consistent flat-track setup. Have a good week everybody.


  1. I'm afraid we've just witnessed NASCAR get bullied into using yet another of Bruton Smith's cookie cutter tracks. What's that they say about a pig wearing lipstick is still a pig...

    Many off-track problems will make this race very memorable for several thousand fans who either couldn't get in until late or never made it in the gate. Too bad.

    On the track, since when does a bumpy surface make a racing venue intriguing? If that's the case then why did they spend millions resurfacing Daytona and Talladega?

    Ah yes... Kyle was heartily booed again... And Junior continues his slide into oblivion...

    Thanks jmayer!

  2. All of Kyle's wins this year have been boring, and two were on short tracks.

    "Now it’s time to head up north to New Hampshire to put in 301 grueling laps." .....
    For the viewers, or the racers? LOL

  3. Another crap race in the books and NASCAR will say it was the best of the year. Lose the cookie cutter tracks or lose more fans, short tracks are in high demand, but who are we just the paying costumer. Fix it Nascar or lose it all together.

  4. Dwindy1 - Hopefully the off-track problems are fixed, and I'm pretty confident they will be. Several tracks have had similar problems when they first opened.

    Gene - Both, lol. Last year's fall race at New Hampshire was excellent, but that certainly was the exception rather than the rule.

    Anonymous - It was a rough week for NASCAR. But, future races at Kentucky will be better. They can't get a heck of a lot worse, but again, several tracks have struggled when NASCAR first visited. Past Nationwide and Truck races have been pretty good at that track.