2011 Quaker State 400
|Race 18 of 36 in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season|
|Date||July 9, 2011|
|Location||Kentucky Speedway, Sparta, Kentucky|
|Course||Permanent racing facility
1.5 mi (2.4 km)
|Distance||267 laps, 400.5 mi (644.5 km)|
|Weather||Partly cloudy with a high of 88; wind out of the East at 5 mph.|
|Driver||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|Time||29.540 (in practice, grid set by practice times)|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing|
||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|Television in the United States|
|Network||Turner Network Television|
|Announcers||Adam Alexander, Wally Dallenbach, Jr. and Kyle Petty|
The 2011 Quaker State 400 was a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stock car race held on July 9, 2011 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky. Contested over 267 laps on the 1.5-mile (2.4 km) asphalt tri-oval, it was 18th race of the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season, and the first Sprint Cup Series event at Kentucky Speedway. The race was won by Kyle Busch for the Joe Gibbs Racing team. David Reutimann finished second, and Jimmie Johnson clinched third.
The track, Kentucky Speedway, is one of ten intermediate tracks to hold NASCAR races. The standard track at Kentucky Speedway is a four-turn tri-oval track that is 1.5 miles (2.4 km) long. The track's turns are banked at 14 degrees, while the front stretch, the location of the finish line, is 8 degrees. The back stretch, opposite of the front, is at only 4 degrees. The racetrack has seats for 107,000 spectators. The track is also the most recent addition to the schedule since the 2001 season, when Chicagoland Speedway and Kansas Speedway were added to the schedule.
Before the race, Kevin Harvick led the Drivers' Championship with 586 points, and Carl Edwards stood in second with 581. Kyle Busch was third in the Drivers' Championship with 576 points, six ahead of Kurt Busch and twelve ahead of Matt Kenseth in fourth and fifth. Jimmie Johnson with 564 was 30 ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., as Jeff Gordon with 519 points, was 14 ahead of Clint Bowyer, and 21 in front of Ryan Newman. In the Manufacturers' Championship, Chevrolet was leading with 112 points, 10 ahead of Ford. Toyota, with 90 points, was 20 points ahead of Dodge in the battle for third.
Practice and qualifying
Four practice sessions were scheduled to be held before the Saturday race—two on both Thursday and Friday. The first session lasted 240 minutes, while the second session was 120 minutes long. The third session was scheduled to be 60 minutes, but was cancelled because of race, while the fourth was 90 minutes. Thursday's sessions was also used to test fuel injection, which the Sprint Cup Series will switch to for the 2012 season. Johnson was quickest with a time of 30.703 seconds in the first session, five-hundredths of a second faster than Paul Menard. Travis Kvapil was about one-tenth of a second slowing than Menard's pace, followed by Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, and David Ragan. Gordon was seventh, still within a second of Johnson's time.
In the second practice session, Kyle Busch was fastest with a time of 30.193 seconds, only 0.155 of a second quicker than second-placed Kurt Busch. Edwards took third place, ahead of Menard, Newman and Johnson. Mark Martin only managed 7th place. During both sessions, four drivers were added to the session for the fuel injection testing, one for each manufacturer. Of the four manufacturer and drivers, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was quickest in both sessions for Roush Fenway Racing and Ford. The third practice session, the first practice only for the race and qualifying, was cancelled because of wet weather. Kyle Busch was quickest during final practice with a time of 29.540 seconds. Juan Pablo Montoya following in second, ahead of Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, and Johnson.
Forty-eight cars were entered for qualifying, but only forty-three raced because of NASCAR's qualifying procedure. However, after half of the cars qualified, wet weather soaked the track, therefore cancelling the session and making final practice times determine the qualifying grid. Kyle Busch, after finishing the final practice in first, won the pole position for Joe Gibbs Racing He was joined on the front row of the grid by Montoya. Kurt Busch was third, Kahne took fourth, and Johnson started fifth. Brad Keselowski, Edwards, Ragan, Tony Stewart, and Menard rounded out the first ten positions. The five drivers who failed to qualify for the race were David Stremme, Michael Waltrip, T. J. Bell, David Starr and Robby Gordon.
To a large extent, the race was overshadowed by major traffic issues in the vicinity of the track. Owner Speedway Motorsports did not make any significant upgrades to the infrastructure in and around the track (beyond the increased capacity) in order to accommodate the sheer number of fans attending the race. According to Sports Illustrated NASCAR writer Brant James,
|“||Kentucky Speedway's reputation as an epicenter of traffic mayhem preceded it. An increase in seating capacity to 107,000 and an inaugural Sprint Cup race guaranteed that the already troublesome venue would become one of the most inaccessible in all of NASCAR. Fatal vision fulfilled.||”|
Backups on Interstate 71 began more than eight hours before the start of the race. By 3:30 pm, I-71 was backed up for more than 15 miles (24 km) to the north of the speedway. At 6:00 pm, the Kentucky State Police (KSP) reported backups of more than 20 miles (32 km) in both directions on I-71, and backups of 10 miles (16 km) on side roads in the area. The KSP added that traffic was still backed up for miles at about 8:55 pm, halfway through the race. At 9:30 pm, traffic patterns were switched to outbound, and many fans who were still trying to get to the track were turned away. Several fans who managed to make it to the race were turned away because there wasn't enough available parking. Those who made it to the race were only reported having to wait half an hour or more to use the restroom due to a shortage of port-a-johns. Others reported shortages at the concession stands.
Bruton Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports, had joked on the day before the race that "we expect everyone to be home by Tuesday." Smith was in a much less cheerful mood during the race, telling reporters:
|“||"There's 15 to 20,000 people that won't get in here today. Traffic is horrendous. Interstate 71 is a disaster. It may have been OK in 1955, but somebody should have rebuilt that thing 20 years ago.||”|
One of the thousands who never made it to the track was Kentucky Senate President and gubernatorial candidate David L. Williams, who left the state capital of Frankfort, 45 miles (72 km) away, at 2:00 pm. Also stuck in the jam was Denny Hamlin, who live-tweeted updates on his status while waiting to enter the track. Hamlin would, however, make the prerace drivers' meeting and start the race.
ESPN.com NASCAR writer Terry Blount commented after the race,
|“||This should have been a great day for NASCAR, a new Cup event for the first time in 10 years and a sellout crowd at Kentucky Speedway. Instead, the entire day was a horrible black eye for the sport at a facility that was completely unprepared for an event of this size and stature. Traffic jams are normal for a Sprint Cup race. This was not a traffic jam. It was a traffic catastrophe.||”|
On the Monday after the race, the track announced that unscanned tickets for the Quaker State 400 would be valid for any of the remaining six 2011 Sprint Cup races to be held at tracks owned by Speedway Motorsports, or for the 2012 Kentucky Sprint Cup race. In addition to the ticket exchange, fans with unscanned tickets would also receive an equal number of tickets to either of the two remaining major events at the track in 2011—the Kentucky 225 in the Camping World Truck Series on October 1, or the Kentucky Indy 300 in the IndyCar Series on October 2.
The race, the 18th in the season, began at 7:30 pm EDT and was televised live in the United States on TNT. The conditions on the grid were dry before the race with the air temperature at 81 °F (27 °C). Raceway Ministries pastor John Roberts began pre-race ceremonies, by giving the invocation. Next, Nick Lachey performed the national anthem, and Steve Beshear, Kentucky's Governor, gave the command for drivers to start their engines. Two drivers had to start at the end of the grid because of changes that were not approved during practice; they were Denny Hamlin and Dave Blaney.
Standings after the race
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- Blount, Terry (July 5, 2011). "Something new, finally, for NASCAR". ESPN. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- "Driver's Championship Classification". NASCAR. Retrieved July 5, 2011.
- "Manufactures' Championship Classification". Jayski.com. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved July 5, 2011.
- Hembree, Mike. "CUP: Cars Open Practice After Rains". July 8, 2011. Speedtv.com. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
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- Hembree, Mike. "CUP: Fuel Injection Testing Scheduled At Kentucky". July 6, 2011. Speedtv.com. Retrieved July 6, 2011.
- "Practice One Timing and Scoring". NASCAR. Retrieved July 7, 2011.
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- Menzer, Joe. "All testing talk centers around fuel injection". July 7, 2011. NASCAR. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
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- "Qualifying Entry List". NASCAR. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- "Kentucky Qualifying Rained Out". July 8, 2011. Motor Racing Network. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- "Race Official Lineup". NASCAR. July 8, 2011. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- James, Brant (July 10, 2011). "Five things we learned at Kentucky". SportsIllustrated.com. Retrieved July 10, 2011.[dead link]
- Blount, Terry (July 10, 2011). "Traffic nightmare spoils NASCAR's party". ESPN. Retrieved July 10, 2011.
- "There's traffic and then there was Saturday". Cincinnati.com. July 9, 2011. Retrieved July 10, 2011.[dead link]
- Kelly, Kevin (July 10, 2011). "Exhausting day for motorists". Cincinnati.com. Retrieved July 11, 2011.
- Jensen, Tom. What now, Kentucky?. Speed, July 10, 2011.
- Kentucky Speedway apologizes to fans. Speedway Motorsports, July 11, 2011.
- Blount, Terry. Kentucky Speedway gets a mulligan. ESPN, July 12, 2011.
- Groeschen, Tom (July 10, 2011). "Bruton Smith: Race great, traffic not". Cincinnati.com. Retrieved July 10, 2011.[dead link]
- Blount, Terry (July 12, 2011). "Kentucky track offers ticket exchange". ESPN. Retrieved July 13, 2011.
- "Race Summary". NASCAR. Retrieved July 9, 2011.
- "Lineup Statistics". MotorRacingNetwork.com. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
- "Jayski's® NASCAR Silly Season Site — Kentucky Sprint Cup Qualifying Order/Results, Lineup". Jayski.com. Retrieved July 8, 2011.
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