Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky

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Intermediate-sized ovals make up the majority of the landscape in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

You see them so often that sometimes, you forget that they have their own little quirks and quickly slap them with the “cookie cutter” tag.

That’s not the case, however, with Kentucky Speedway, which will host the Sprint Cup circus this Saturday night in the Quaker State 400.

This 1.5-miler is bumpy and rough. Handling is important here, and with no repaves in over a decade, multiple grooves have formed up for drivers to use. All the elements for a good, big track show are in place.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know heading into Round 17 of the 2014 Sprint Cup regular season…

KENTUCKY-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· Two top 10s
· Average finish of 11.3
· Average Running Position of 13.3, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.6, 10th-best
· 21 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 202 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.530 mph, 12th-fastest
· 92 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), ninth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· One win, two top fives, three top 10s
· Average finish of 5.3
· Average Running Position of 5.4, second-best
· Driver Rating of 125.2, second-best
· 104 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.765 mph, second-fastest
· 740 Laps in the Top 15 (92.4%), third-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 UPS Ford)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 15.3
· Average Running Position of 9.8, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.5, seventh-best
· 20 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.987 mph, sixth-fastest
· 643 Laps in the Top 15 (80.3%), fourth-most
· 104 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 7.7
· Average Running Position of 13.2, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.8, eighth-best
· 31 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 230 Green Flag Passes, third-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.854 mph, seventh-fastest
· 514 Laps in the Top 15 (64.2%), ninth-most
· 119 Quality Passes, second-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 16.3
· Average Running Position of 12.5, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 98.1, sixth-best
· 34 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.223 mph, fifth-fastest
· 531 Laps in the Top 15 (66.3%), eighth-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet)
· One top 10
· Average finish of 12.3
· Average Running Position of 12.2, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.5, 11th-best
· 225 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.830 mph, eighth-fastest
· 628 Laps in the Top 15 (78.4%), fifth-most
· 110 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· One top five, three top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 6.0
· Series-best Average Running Position of 3.9
· Series-best Driver Rating of 125.9
· Series-high 118 Fastest Laps Run
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 172.196 mph
· Series-high 783 Laps in the Top 15 (97.8%)
· 108 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 8.7
· Average Running Position of 14.0, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 98.2, fifth-best
· 52 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Series-high 313 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.289 mph, fourth-fastest
· 472 Laps in the Top 15 (58.9%), 11th-most
· 116 Quality Passes, third-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota)
· One win, one top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 4.7
· Average Running Position of 8.3, third-best
· Driver Rating of 109.3, third-best
· 67 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 171.542 mph, third-fastest
· 775 Laps in the Top 15 (96.8%), second-most
· Series-high 157 Quality Passes

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford)
· One win, one top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 13.7
· Average Running Position of 13.2, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 104.8, fourth-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 573 Laps in the Top 15 (71.5%), sixth-most

Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 13.3
· Driver Rating of 87.2, 12th-best
· 202 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· 92 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· Two top 10s
· Average finish of 11.0
· Average Running Position of 12.6, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 90.7, ninth-best
· 203 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 170.746 mph, ninth-fastest
· 555 Laps in the Top 15 (69.3%), seventh-most
· 101 Quality Passes, eighth-most

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Track Data
Season Race #: 16 of 36 (06-28-14)
Track Size: 1.5-miles
Banking/Turn 1 & 2: 14 degrees
Banking/Turn 3 & 4: 14 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 8 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 8 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 1,662 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,600 feet
Race Length: 200 laps / 300 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Kentucky
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 125.9
Kyle Busch…………………………. 125.2
Matt Kenseth……………………….. 109.3
Brad Keselowski………………….. 104.8
Kasey Kahne………………………… 98.2
Denny Hamlin……………………….. 98.1
Carl Edwards………………………… 94.5
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 91.8
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 90.7
Kurt Busch……………………………. 90.6
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (three total) among active drivers at Kentucky Speedway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 183.636 mph, 29.406 secs., 06-29-13
2013 race winner: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 131.948 mph, (03:02:07), 06-30-13
Track qualifying record: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 183.636 mph, 29.406 secs., 06-29-13
Track race record: Brad Keselowski., Dodge, 145.607 mph, (02:45:02), 06-30-12

History
· In 1998, the track broke ground in Sparta, Kentucky, and opened as a 1.5-mile speedway in 2000.
· The original owners, Jerry Carroll and four other investors owned the track until 2008, when current owners, Speedway Motorsports Inc. purchased the facility.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was held in 2011 – won by Kyle Busch.

Notebook
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kentucky Speedway since the first race in 2011 – one race per season.
· 53 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway; 42 in more than one.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying at Kentucky was cancelled due to weather. The starting line-up was set per the Rule Book.
· Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the only two drivers that have won Coors Light poles at Kentucky.
· Youngest Kentucky pole winner: Jimmie Johnson (06/30/2012 – 36 years, nine months, 13 days).
· Oldest Kentucky pole winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (06/30/2013 – 38 years, eight months, 20 days).
· Three different NSCS drivers have won at Kentucky Speedway: Kyle Busch (07/09/2011), Brad Keselowski (06/30/2012) and Matt Kenseth (6/30/2013).
· Youngest Kentucky winner: Kyle Busch (07/09/2011 – 26 years, two months, seven days).
· Oldest Kentucky winner: Matt Kenseth (06/30/2013 – 41 years, three months, 20 days).
· Joe Gibbs Racing leads the series in wins at Kentucky with two (2011, 2013); followed by Penske Racing (2012) with one.
· Two different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Kentucky: Toyota (2011, 2013) and Dodge (2012).
· Kyle Busch won the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky from the first starting position. Due to the qualifying session being cancelled for the 2011 race it was not from the Coors Light pole.
· One of the three (33.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kentucky have been won from the front row.
· Two of the NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kentucky have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Kentucky was 16th, by Matt Kenseth last season.
· Three different drivers have posted NSCS runner-up finishes at Kentucky: David Reutimann (2011), Kasey Kahne (2012) and Jamie McMurray (2013).
· Kyle Busch leads the series in top-five finishes at Kentucky with two.
· Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth lead the series in top-10 finishes at Kentucky with three each.
· Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Kentucky with a 2.333.
· Matt Kenseth leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Kentucky with a 4.667. Kyle Busch (5.333), Jimmie Johnson (6.000), Jeff Gordon (7.667), and Kasey Kahne (8.667)are the other active drivers with an average finish in the top 10.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kentucky Speedway was the July 9, 2011 race won by Kyle Busch over David Reutimann with a MOV of 0.179 second.
· None of the three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kentucky Speedway have resulted with a green-white-checkered finish.
· None of the three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Kentucky Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kentucky Speedway once; the 2011 race.
· Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Kentucky with 243 laps led in three starts. Jimmie Johnson has led the second-most with 203.
· Danica Patrick is the only female driver to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kentucky Speedway.
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· There have been four NASCAR Sprint Cup races among two tracks in Kentucky: 3 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, and 1 at Corbin Speedway in Corbin.
· 42 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Kentucky; three have posted wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
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Shank: Ahead of year two, Acura NSX GT3 ‘100 percent better’

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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A new-look lineup will greet Michael Shank Racing’s now customer-based Acura NSX GT3 program for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

The car itself, however, appears a much more solidly well-rounded machine after its first full year of racing and development in 2017, which should help the team build on the performance and results achieved last year.

“It’s 100 percent better,” Shank told NBC Sports at last week’s PRI Show in Indianapolis. “Steve Eriksen (vice-president and COO, Honda Performance Development) mentioned (in a meeting), it’s so much better than we were last year. I don’t know what that means ultimately, except to say we’re more prepared.”

Owing to IMSA’s designation that the team can’t run a works, factory-backed entry as that was only allowed for one year, the MSR GT Daytona class effort in 2018 takes on a customer role.

The team has a new full-season pairing in the No. 93 Acura, with IMSA veteran and multi-time Pirelli World Challenge champion Lawson Aschenbach alongside Justin Marks, a bit of a renaissance man in his own right as a NASCAR Xfinity Series race winner and one of the principals of DryLake Group, which runs the GoPro Motorplex among other businesses.

At present, the team’s No. 86 Acura for Katherine Legge and Alvaro Parente is a Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup entry, but the team and Acura are working towards filling that car for a full season return with additional drivers to be named later.

Mario Farnbacher and AJ Allmendinger have been announced as two of the extra drivers for Daytona for MSR’s team, Farnbacher also being confirmed with the No. 93 car for the full Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup schedule.

Shank explained how methodical he has to be from a budgetary planning standpoint and how this new look lineup came together.

“It never comes real easy. I don’t want to cry too much because when you look at this, I’ve got 25 full-time people, I’ve got a fairly large budget for a “smaller team” – we’re not poor, but we just have to watch our steps,” he said.

“The reason why we’re still here after 20 years is that we’ve been conservative financially, meaning we only do what we can do and then we got to draw a line. As much as I want another set of $100,000 dampers, I got to pull back!”

“We truly, truly got lucky with that one (the No. 93 car). Justin flies under the radar a little but, but I promise you he’s going to surprise some people this year. Once we get into January – he’s got some kind of cool commitments in early January, he’s climbing a mountain in South America, one of the tallest in the world. He’s going to contend for a lot of cool stuff this year, I’m anxious to see where he goes.”

Aschenbach, for his part, is relishing the opportunity. He and Shank have known each other more than a decade going back to when he tested an Atlantic car, and he and Marks have finally synced up after years of wanting to work together.

Lawson Aschenbach. Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

“Michael’s assembled a very successful team. It’s a professional organization. It’s very well managed with a common goal of winning,” Aschenbach told NBC Sports. “Even for a seat fitting you feel at home. It made the decision very easy. I have a lot of respect for Shank, and for what he’s accomplished. He’s always in the paddock with a program. You have to give props to that, to have that staying power.

“When I started to realize I’d have to move from Stevenson, Justin was my first call, strictly because we’ve been friends for so long. He wanted to do more sports car racing. He did great in the Turner BMW last year, and I think it re-energized him to focus on sports car racing in the future.

“I tested at Sebring a few laps in the Acura. It’s definitely different than the Audi to suit that. But that’s a part of racing where nothing out of the norm. I was very impressed with the car. You can tell they’ve worked really hard in a lot of specific areas, and that lets you see how successful it is. Winning two IMSA races against the caliber of competition in the first year was an incredible effort and showed the dedication of Acura, HPD, Michael Shank Racing and the drivers assembled.”

One of the unfortunate side effects is that Ozz Negri, who’s been as much a Shank lifer as the team has been, doesn’t appear to be in the frame for another year. He’s been with Shank for nearly 15 years.

“It’s just circumstances,” Shank reflected. “We’re talking about 14 straight years of working together (with Ozz). I haven’t gotten real sad about it because I feel like times change sometimes. His contribution to our team is so much more than driving a race car. So, it’s just fortunate that’s it has to come to this. Hopefully, he’ll be a part of our team somehow, some way.”

Andy Lally (Magnus Racing) and Jeff Segal (Scuderia Corsa) have also moved on to new teams next year, although both have experience with those teams.