When Kyle Larson was asked his thoughts on Turn 3 at Kentucky Speedway, he rolled his eyes so far into the back of his head they seemed to pop back out in the front.
That expression in and of itself served as a good answer about his views of what is widely considered one of the most treacherous corners on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup circuit. But just in case there was any misunderstanding he added: “I don’t like Turn 3 at Kentucky. It’s too flat.”
Even when a car handles Turn 3 well, the driver has to worry about all of the other cars, because they probably won’t.
That sums up the consensus among drivers going into Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. While on paper Kentucky looks like a typical 1.5-mile speedway, on concrete it is notably different. Turn 3 is flatter, slicker and narrower than the other end of the racetrack.
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In video interviews online previewing the race, drivers called Turn 3 “odd” and “really loose” (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), “a pain in my butt” (Danica Patrick), “sketchy” (Ryan Blaney and Ty Dillon) and “treacherous” (Jamie McMurray and Trevor Bayne).
“It takes you about 30 minutes of practice to get your nerves up,” Denny Hamlin said.
And even after that, it’s still not easy.
Cars get loose on entry to the corner and flutter for several hundred feet before finally stabilizing—and that’s on good laps.
On bad ones, the cars don’t stabilize and drivers have to hope that their fishtailing doesn’t lead to contact with another driver or the wall. And even when a car handles Turn 3 well, the driver has to worry about all of the other cars, because they probably won’t.
Turn 3 at Kentucky pretty much reminds me of going racing on an ice skating rink.
“Turn 3 at Kentucky pretty much reminds me of going racing on an ice skating rink,” says Kyle Busch. “There’s a lot of things that can happen in that corner.”
Which is not to say all those things are bad, as Busch has won two of six races at Kentucky, led 437 laps (more than a quarter of the total laps run there) and has an average finish of 5.2, tied with Matt Kenseth for the best among Cup drivers.
Busch needs a win to lock himself into the playoffs, and his ability to ice skate through Turn 3 will help determine whether he gets that elusive checkered flag this week.
“You definitely want to make sure you have all the grip in your car you can possibly have and try to get through each and every lap ... ” Busch says.
The only driver to win more races and lead more laps at Kentucky than Busch is Brad Keselowski. He has won three of the six Cup races at Kentucky and led 483 laps – more than 30 percent of the total. And Keselowski doesn't exactly love Turn 3 either.
"Turn 3 at Kentucky is flat, loose and out of control," he said.