This weekend’s race at Kentucky was a very important one for NASCAR, specifically because it was the first on a new rules package that the drivers wanted, and discussed with for weeks on in.
Drivers have felt the action that the fans have seen is down from last year, specifically on-track. The new aerodynamic package that was introduced at the start of the year, combined with the reduced horsepower engines, have produced a bigger challenge than they actually expected.
So, with input from a driver’s council that formed at Dover, NASCAR introduced a new package that originally was to be possibly used next season, but instead got a full-on introduction midway through the season.
So, with 43 cars on the track, the new package was introduced for the fans to see, and also the drivers to shake down and tell what is good, bad, or in between.
After 400 miles, the overall reaction to the race was overwhelmingly positive.
Statistics state that there were nearly 2300 on-track passes for position in this year’s event, up from just over 1100 last season and 1300 in the debut year of Kentucky two years ago. Drivers felt they had more control of the car in traffic, and didn’t feel as though they were at the mercy of the driver in front. Eventual race winner Kyle Busch pulled up on then-leader Joey Logano, who went to try and cut the momentum Busch had when he was gaining ground.
But, Busch was able to move around, and make the pass, as he was showing he was faster than the leader at that moment.
Still, the package is not perfect. Kentucky already had a tire allotment as far as compound for this race, which was harder than the drivers really wanted. But, that’s not to say there isn’t room to improve. This same package is being run later this year at Darlington, and both NASCAR and Goodyear have already decided to test for a softer compound, one that would give up on the longer run and make the drivers work even more to find the right line to run.
So far, I’m impressed at what I saw under the lights on Saturday night. Once Darlington comes around, I’ll really know if I like this package or not.
RESULTS: 1-Kyle Busch 2-Logano 3-Hamlin 4-Edwards 5-Kenseth 6-Keselowski 7-Gordon 8-Harvick 9-Johnson 10-Kurt Busch
NOTABLE FINISHES: 17-Truex Jr. 21-Earnhardt Jr. 27-Kahne 33-Stewart
CAUTIONS: 11 for 49 laps. Laps: 20-23 (#23, 98 accident-T3-4); 32-35 (Competition); 82-86 (Debris-T4); 100-104 (#41 spin-T4); 123-128
(#23 accident-T4); 137-140 (#88 accident-T3); 144-146 (#14,17, 26, 83 accident-T2); 153-156 (Debris-T4); 187-191 (Debris-T3); 208-212 (#10 accident-T4); 221-224 (#42 accident-T2).
LEAD CHANGES: 13 among 8 drivers. K. Larson POLE; B. Keselowski 1-32; R. Sorenson 33; Kyle Busch 34-94; B. Keselowski 95-124; Kyle Busch 125-188; R. Newman 189-190; Kyle Busch 191-208; A. Bowman 209-210; D. Hamlin 211-212; C. Edwards 213; D. Hamlin 214-224; J. Logano 225-247; Kyle Busch 248-267.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 5 Mins, 42 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 129.402 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 1.594 Seconds
CHASE GRID: 1. Johnson-624 (Points), 4 (wins); 2. Harvick-692, 2; 3. Earnhardt Jr-616, 2; 4. Logano-624, 1; 5. Truex Jr-596. 1; 6. Keselowski-559, 1; 7. Kenseth-540, 1; 8. Hamlin-522, 1; 9. Edwards-449, 1; 10. McMurray, -136 (from 1st); 11. Gordon, -154; 12. Kahne, -178; 13. Menard, -182; 14. Newman, -194; 15. Bowyer, -201; 16. Almirola, -218.
*Kyle Busch sits 35th in points with two wins. Must make top-30 to be Chase eligible.