ThatsRacin

New aero package rules the night at Kentucky Speedway

Kyle Busch sprays his drink in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky., Saturday, July 11, 2015.
Kyle Busch sprays his drink in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup series auto race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky., Saturday, July 11, 2015. AP

In his victory in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, Kyle Busch once again led the most laps on track where he has always enjoyed success.

Just more of the same?

Hardly.

The celebration in Victory Lane may have seemed a familiar one – Busch now has two wins and four top-five finishes in five career Sprint Cup Series races at Kentucky – but how it came about may have ignited a much-needed fire of enthusiasm in NASCAR this season.

The race featured the debut of what are now five planned track-specific aerodynamic rules packages, and to say it was a success may actually be an understatement.

“I think the aero package (created) options for us drivers to be able to move around and try different things,” said Busch, who earned his second win of the season in just seven starts. He missed the first 11 races of the season because of injuries sustained in a wreck in the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona in February.

“When I got to (Joey) Logano there late in the going I knew he was going to come up and block my lane and take my air,” he said. “But when he did, it wasn’t as bad as it has been with I think the other aero package, where you just stall out.

“I could move down (the track), I could turn down and I could get underneath him, and we kind of swapped the lead a couple times for a couple laps and then finally I was able to get by him and move on away.”

Busch was far from the only driver to praise the rules change after the race.

And even if he was, NASCAR had plenty of data to back up what was arguably the best race of the 2015 season from start to finish.

There were 2,665 green-flag passes throughout the entire field in Saturday night’s race, compared with 1,147 last year and the most since Kentucky began hosting Cup series events in 2011.

There also were a record 22 green-flag passes for the lead, with the previous best (19) set in 2011.

From Kentucky Speedway standards, there was easily a visually discernible difference in the quality of the racing throughout the field, with cars at times three- or four-wide racing for position.

“This is what race car driving’s all about,” said Denny Hamlin, who came from two laps down at one point to finish third. “I feel like now it’s back in the driver and crew chief’s hands to get their car handling like it’s supposed to.

“It’s not just an arms race of who can build the fastest cars in the shop.”

The good reviews were not reserved to those in Victory Lane or running up front, either.

Clint Bowyer, who has struggled this season at Michael Waltrip Racing, came away with a 19th-place finish but sounded as excited after the race as he has all season.

“I hope the fans enjoyed that because I sure did,” he said. “I thought we were going to have a little better finish there. We were running decent for a while, but toward the end I kind of brushed the wall. There wasn’t really any damage, but after that the handling just wasn’t the same.”

Drivers were adamant much work still remains on improving the racing product – Goodyear didn’t even have time to create a new tire for the package at Kentucky.

Clearly, however, NASCAR seems to have hit on something.

“I could actually drive the car, I was steering and sliding, I about wrecked a few times,” said Carl Edwards, who finished fourth. “You know, I felt like I was doing something, not just sitting in line.

“So, I was really excited about the racing. I hope it looked good. I’m not just saying that because we ran well, I made that decision about halfway through the race. Regardless, I was having a good time.”

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Saturday’s Results

Fin

St

Driver

Car

Laps

*

Pts

Earnings

1

9

Kyle Busch

Toyota

267

48

209,316

2

4

Joey Logano

Ford

267

43

161,118

3

8

Denny Hamlin

Toyota

267

42

125,335

4

20

Carl Edwards

Toyota

267

41

124,295

5

16

Matt Kenseth

Toyota

267

39

142,111

6

2

Brad Keselowski

Ford

267

39

140,656

7

3

Jeff Gordon

Chevy

267

37

135,176

8

15

Kevin Harvick

Chevy

267

36

137,640

9

6

Jimmie Johnson

Chevy

267

35

132,151

10

13

Kurt Busch

Chevy

267

34

102,715

11

17

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Ford

267

33

95,890

12

12

Aric Almirola

Ford

267

32

123,951

13

28

Trevor Bayne

Ford

267

31

126,790

14

7

Jamie McMurray

Chevy

267

30

116,156

15

14

Paul Menard

Chevy

267

29

93,915

16

27

Greg Biffle

Ford

267

28

116,523

17

5

Martin Truex Jr.

Chevy

267

27

111,035

18

25

David Ragan

Toyota

267

26

11,479

19

30

Clint Bowyer

Toyota

267

25

118,123

20

26

Ryan Newman

Chevy

267

25

121,290

21

10

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Chevy

267

23

99,365

22

18

Sam Hornish Jr.

Ford

267

22

109,660

23

21

Casey Mears

Chevy

267

21

109,248

24

32

Justin Allgaier

Chevy

267

20

106,998

25

11

Austin Dillon

Chevy

267

19

119,526

26

24

AJ Allmendinger

Chevy

267

18

111,423

27

19

Kasey Kahne

Chevy

266

17

97,090

28

36

Landon Cassill

Chevy

266

0

82,065

29

34

David Gilliland

Ford

266

15

101,523

30

29

Michael Annett

Chevy

266

14

83,290

31

31

Alex Bowman

Chevy

266

14

90,772

32

38

Brett Moffitt

Ford

266

12

80,115

33

22

Tony Stewart

Chevy

265

11

105,779

34

23

Danica Patrick

Chevy

265

10

86,515

35

1

Kyle Larson

Chevy

265

9

112,373

36

42

Reed Sorenson

Chevy

264

9

78,410

37

33

Cole Whitt

Ford

264

7

78,352

38

40

Will Kimmel

Ford

263

6

73,752

39

41

J.J. Yeley

Toyota

260

0

69,680

40

43

Alex Kennedy

Chevy

247

4

65,680

41

35

Jeb Burton

Toyota

175

1

3

61,680

42

39

Matt DiBenedetto

Toyota

145

2

2

57,680

43

37

Josh Wise

Ford

17

2

1

54,180

Race tatistics

*Reason out: 1-suspension, 2-accident.

Average speed of winner: 129.402 mph.

Time of race: 3 hours, 5 minutes, 42 seconds.

Margin of victory: 1.594 seconds.

Cautions: 11 for 49 laps.

Lead changes: 13 among 8 drivers.

Lap leaders: Keselowski 1-32; Sorenson 33; Ky. Busch 34-94; Keselowski 95-124; Ky. Busch 125-188; Newman 189-190; Ky. Busch 191-208; Bowman 209-210; Hamlin 211-212; Edwards 213; Hamlin 214-224; Logano 225-247; Ky. Busch 248-267.

Leaders summary: Ky. Busch, 4 times for 163 laps; Keselowski, 2 for 62; Logano, 1 for 23; Hamlin, 2 for 13; Newman, 1 for 2; Bowman, 1 for 2; Edwards, 1 for 1; Sorenson, 1 for 1.

Wins: Johnson, 4; Ku. Busch, Ky. Busch, Earnhardt and Harvick, 2; Edwards, Hamlin, Kenseth, Keselowski, Logano and Truex, 1.

Points leaders: 1. Harvick, 692; 2. Johnson, 624; 3. Logano, 624; 4. Earnhardt, 616; 5. Truex J, 596; 6. Keselowski, 559; 7. McMurray, 556; 8. Ku. Busch, 542; 9. Kenseth, 540; 10. Gordon, 537; 11. Hamlin, 522; 12. Kahne, 513; 13. Menard, 509; 14. Newman, 497; 15. Bowyer, 490; 16. Almirola, 473.

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