The starting grid has been set per the provisions in the NASCAR rulebook. NASCAR announced prior to the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway two weeks ago, that current year owner points would replace practice speeds for determining race eligibility and starting position in the event adverse conditions prevent qualifying from taking place. As a result of this change, Chevrolet SS driver Kevin Harvick will lead the field to green for the sixth annual Quaker State 400 from Kentucky Speedway. This will be the first time the 2014 series champion has started from the top spot at the 1.5-mile track.
Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, piloting the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, will third. Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott will take the green flag from the eighth starting spot, while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson will start ninth giving Team Chevy four of the top 10 starters.
Johnson experienced an issue in the second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session which ended with the six-time series champion hitting the outside retaining wall. The No. 48 team was forced to pull out the back-up car off the transporter. However, since the incident occurred prior to qualifying Johnson will be able to retain ninth-place starting spot for Saturday night’s 267-lap/400-mile race.
A total of 40 cars were entered for Saturday night’s race, so no cars will be eliminated from the starting line-up
Brad Keselowski (Ford) will start second, Joey Logano (Ford) will start fourth and Carl Edwards (Toyota) will start fifth to round out the top five starters.
The Quaker State 400 is scheduled to begin Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., ET and will be aired live on NBCSN, PRN Radio and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90
PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 4 BUSCH LIGHT CHEVROLET SS – Pole Sitter by virtue of being the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Point’s Leader
ON HIS OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEKEND AT KENTUCKY AND LOOKING AHEAD AS THINGS START TO INTENSIFY BEFORE WE SET THE CHASE FIELD:
“Well, I think this weekend is a little bit of an unknown. We spent two days here testing and obviously we had to make some adjustments – Goodyear had to make some adjustments to the tires coming back to make them live. I think as we have gone through practice we haven’t had any tire issues so far. But it changed a lot with the feel of the car and the things that you want in the car. We’ve scrambled a little bit. I felt like we were better the second time out on the race track. I think hopefully being able to get some more practice will be beneficial because we still don’t really have a good idea of exactly where we need to be as far as balance and what is going to happen the longer you run the car.
“As far as the season, I feel like for us we have overcome a lot. I feel like we have adjusted and adapted to making pit road better over the last couple of weeks. We have had a lot of issues and things that have cropped up that we’ve been able to cover up with good finishes that we have kept building on. I feel good about the performance of the race cars. I think they are performing well and allowing us to overcome those things with just speed and performance. I feel like we are cleaning a lot of things up as we go from week to week and hopefully we are ready as we get into the Chase and have everything hitting on all cylinders. I feel good about the performance and good about the progress that we have made with adjusting and adapting and the things that we have been able to achieve have been okay. Hopefully we can keep making them better."
THOUGHTS ON THE REPAVE AND IN A SITUATION LIKE THIS WITH THE RAIN KNOWING IN A BEST CASE SCENARIO YOU ARE OUT THERE IN AN HOUR VERSUS BEFORE IT WAS THREE HOURS AND MAYBE NOT EVEN AT ALL:
“Yeah, it definitely puts us in a little bit different box. We have been sitting up there for a couple of hours just trying to figure out the four or five things that you want to try. What happens after that is you put the pieces together and you make your best educated guess upon the things that you have tried, pace that you think the cars are going to run and go from there. It is really not about how fast you run at this particular point it’s how much you can try and how many pieces of the puzzle you can insert into the equation of trying to come up with the solution when you get done with practice."
“Yeah, I’m not 100 percent sure that we will still get back out on the rack the way the storms keep popping up. You hope that you can get out there. I think if we can get that hour of practice at that particular time that is going to be the most realistic thing that we have had or have going forward just because of the time and the conditions and things that we will be dealing with tomorrow night. That will be very beneficial if we can get out there and very important I think for everybody to try to understand exactly what we are dealing with."
DO YOU FIND YOURSELF BEING MORE CAUTIOUS OR EXPERIMENTING AT A TRACK WITH A FRESH SURFACE?
“I think you are definitely cautious just because you don’t know where the limits are and every time you go out you push or move or see something that you hadn’t done before. You start gathering that notebook in your mind of how far you can push things, how far you can hang the car out and how loose the balance can be or how tight it needs to be. Every time out you are gathering more information for yourself to gain that confidence. The hard part about repaves is a lot of places you can go and be over aggressive and slide up out of the groove. You are over aggressive here and you see what happens. You wind up knocking the side off of the car into the fence. I think that the thing that deserves a lot of credit is for NASCAR and the folks here at Kentucky Speedway. You watch that race last night and there were two grooves right off the bat, for a new repave that is pretty remarkable. I think there was a lot of effort and a lot of collaboration between everybody and I’m just proud that we are able to come to a race track that is still very edgy. New paves will always be, but when you have racing that is capable of racing side-by-side that is a really good sign. I’m pretty happy about that."
“It’s just a balance. I don’t think you are going to go through this weekend every being 100 percent confident."
YOUR SON KEELAN TURNS FOUR YEARS OLD TODAY. HOW HAS YOUR RACING LIFE CHANGED AND YOUR PERSONAL LIFE?
“It’s changed my life a lot. I think just in how you think about and approach things. Just being able to share my job with him even though I don’t believe I’ve been home on his actual birthday any of the four years. It’s still… I’m pretty fortunate to be able to take him and let him be a part of what I do for a living and spend more time with him personally and he can be around what I do. It’s normal that you get to take your son to work in most places that you work. We are very fortunate to be able to do that and have them around more than… I think I’m around him more than most people that have a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job. It’s been a lot of fun and definitely changed the direction of DeLana and my life and how we approach things and how you think about things and the things that you do. It’s been a game changer for us."
DO YOU THINK ABOUT SECURITY WHEN YOU ARE AT THE TRACK AND BRINGING YOUR FAMILY HERE EVERY WEEK? HOW DO YOU HANDLE THAT TYPE OF SITUATION?
“I think with the current state of where things have happened I think as NASCAR and ISC (International Speedway Corporation) we have talked about … security is the number one thing we have talked about over the past month. I think it’s important to make sure that we are ahead of it and trying to make sure that we do what we need to do and not take for granted the environment that we are in. We just have to make sure that we are proactive and doing the things that we need to do. I think everybody seems to be doing that, but it’s definitely at the forefront of everybody’s mind."
OBVIOUSLY THIS HAS BEEN A TOUGH WEEK NEWS WISE IN THIS COUNTRY. THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS THAT ARE HARD TO WATCH GOING ON. NASCAR IS OBVIOUSLY ENTERTAINMENT AND EVEN THOUGH YOU ARE HERE TO BE A COMPETITOR YOU ARE PROVIDING A DISTRACTION FOR PEOPLE FOR A FEW HOURS. DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT ROLE AT ALL IN TIMES LIKE THIS?
“You are definitely in a role to try to make people happy. It’s not uncommon to see pictures from mother’s, father’s, grandparents, kids of their sisters, brothers, husband’s whatever the situation is in the casket in your race gear. At that particular point it’s fairly obvious that you need to try to do the best you can to not take for granted what we do and realize exactly how much it means to a lot of people. This is definitely a distraction for a lot of people to get their minds off of things that have been affected or not affected or worried about something. It’s definitely something that we can play a big role in being positive impacts on a lot of people’s lives. It’s a daily reminder of a situation or somebody has cancer or just died or people in the situation that we just had in Dallas (Texas) with everybody worried and frightened about the things that are going on in their city. All of a sudden for four hours you have something that can get their minds off of things or something that you post on Twitter, whether it’s a picture of something that we did or something of Keelan that makes somebody smile. We have the opportunity to have big impacts on people’s lives. Every day you learn more and more about how much of an impact you have. Sometimes you can get so buried into what you are doing, but we are so fortunate to be sitting here doing what we are doing in this environment. Then you see all the real world things that are happening around you and sometimes it’s easy to forget that you are pretty lucky to be sitting in the position that you are in. So, yeah, you think about it a lot."
WE HAVE TWO ROOKIES THIS YEAR WHO MIGHT WELL MAKE THE CHASE. WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN IN THOSE TWO GUYS AND THE DEPTH OF THIS YEAR’S ROOKIE CLASS?
“I think those two (Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott) have definitely shown great competitiveness. They have been very successful in the divisions that they have won in and run in before which is what sets them apart from most of the other people that move up. There are not a lot of them that have won a lot of races and championships there are very few of those people that move up into this division. I think Austin Dillon was probably the last one to do that. You know the talent is there, but it’s hard to win in Cup. I think Kyle Larson is going to be a star in our sport; he just has to break over that hump of not having won before. That is really what happens when you come in. You see those younger guys to really good and then the pressure keeps building. The more you don’t win the pressure just keeps building on when are you going to win, why haven’t you won? You build all this hype around the young guys and then they don’t win and it almost shuts them down at the end of the first year and into the second year. Those guys have a lot of capability, but the further that we go into the year the more they will be judged by not having won than they will off of how bright their future actually is. They are going to be stars."
THE TWO RACES WITH THE LOWER DOWNFORCE PACKAGE HAVE BEEN OR ARE GOING TO BE RUN ON TRACKS WITH SMOOTH SURFACES. DO YOU THINK NASCAR NEEDS TO ADD A TRACK WITH AN ABRASIVE SURFACE TO RUN THIS PACKAGE?
“I don’t think so. I think the abrasive surfaces are going to put on good races no matter how big the spoiler is. That is just bottom line. The cars already slide around. Take the spoiler off of it they are going to slide around more and you are still going to have the same fall off. I think a lot of it is intended to, especially for this race with a new surface. I think to have the low downforce on and accomplish exactly what everybody wanted to accomplish as far as corner speeds at Michigan and the throttle off time, obviously I think there are some big adjustments that we can still make as far as aero balance and tires and getting the car balanced right. Atlanta and Darlington, those types of race tracks they are always going to have good races no matter how big the spoiler is. I don’t even remember how big the first spoiler was. I think it was seven or eight inches tall in 2014 the cars felt pretty much like they did this year with however tall this spoiler is, three and a half inches. Those races are always going to be good."
THIS PLACE ALWAYS KIND OF HUNG ITS HAT ON BEING THE ROUGHEST TRACK ON THE CIRCUIT. HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS IT WITHOUT ALL THOSE BUMPS?
“It feels great to tell you the truth. My neck doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t pound your heels and your neck to the point where you can’t hardly walk for two days. I think that everybody loves the character in the race track, but when you see them dry this particular race track now that the drainage is fixed and all the things that are actually wrong. I don’t think anybody minds bumps and character in a race track it’s just when we sat here for hours last year with water running out of the race track that was just I think the final straw that broke the camel’s back that you had to go out and fix it and make it right. I like the thought process. I really enjoyed watching the Truck Series race last night because of the fact that Turn 3 is obviously the really hard corner and you can get off the corner. The trucks that would lose space they would draft up and they could hold it pretty much wide open through (Turns) 1 and 2 and they would draft back and this end of the corner the entry speed is so much slower than somewhere like a Kansas or somewhere else that has asphalt like this. But, they would build that speed back up through the corner and charge down into Turn 3. It really hard to make that corner the same every time because our cars are very loose into there and some of those trucks looked a little bit tight on the exit last night because they could carry more speed, but I think it made it interesting compared to what we had before where we had two somewhat similar ends. Turn 3 is such a hard corner now that you are flying off in there so much faster it is definitely much different. I enjoyed the race last night and thought that was a new characteristic that we hadn’t seen before here."
HOW COMMON IS THAT EXPERIENCE THAT YOU HAD HERE WITH YOUR NECK AND FEET LIKE YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT EARLIER?
“This one was probably by far the worst. You have different problems at different tracks, but these were jarring (bumps) because of the fact that they were down the straightaway and the car would actually almost come off the ground in certain spots and bounce around. It was just jarring type hits that were almost jumps."
CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT NEXT WEEK’S RACE AT NEW HAMPSHIRE?
“I think the interesting part is seeing what the difference is in the tires. It sounds like they are coming back with a softer tire that should have, hopefully, more tire wear and makes the cars have more fall off. It sounded like that was the direction that we are going for next week. I like going to Loudon I think it’s a very challenging race track. I like the flat tracks. We should have won the last race by a long ways up there and just had a faulty fuel filler and missed it with three laps to go. It has always been a very good race track for us and looking forward to going back. I love going to that part of the country this time of year when it’s hot everywhere else. It can be hot up there, but 85 is usually, everybody feels like they are about to melt up there and it’s a nice part of the country to go to this time of the year and be able to race. A lot of race fans up there and just one of my favorite stops every year."