Kentucky Sprint Cup race to be first with fewer than 43 cars in more than a decade


Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway will likely mark the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race without a full 43-car field in more than a decade.

Unless NASCAR officials would allow a late entry, which appears unlikely at this point, only 42 cars/drivers — according to NASCAR statisticians — will take the green flag in Saturday night’s event on the 1.5-mile tri-oval in Sparta, Kentucky, roughly 35 miles from downtown Cincinnati.

“The current 43-car field in the Sprint Cup Series has evolved over the years, yet it’s not necessarily a magic number,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said, according to “There are a variety of contributing factors that determine the size of the field, including the ebb and flow of the race teams. A field with less than the maximum is still very much a highly competitive field, and that’s what we’ll have this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.”

The last time there was a field less than the traditional 43 cars was the rescheduled Sprint Cup season finale on Nov. 23, 2001, at New Hampshire International Speedway (now known as New Hampshire Motor Speedway).

The race was originally scheduled for Sept. 16, 2001, but was postponed due to the 9/11 tragedy.

Robby Gordon won that event, his first career Sprint Cup victory, and the first of three in Gordon’s overall Cup career.

Ironically enough, Gordon was sponsored in that race by Lowe’s, which would move to Jimmie Johnson’s team in 2002 – and the rest is NASCAR history.

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Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.