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Kentucky Speedway trip let me be a fan again

Jeff Birchfield • Jul 17, 2019 at 12:35 AM

A visit to Kentucky Speedway served as a good reminder of NASCAR racing from a fan’s perspective.

Part of my vacation last week was a trip to the Quaker State 400 weekend at Kentucky Speedway. It was an opportunity to get advance materials for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but also to experience the sport as a fan again.

Obviously, I got to see a great finish with Kurt Busch outdueling his brother, Kyle, and Joey Logano for the victory.

Watching Friday’s Xfinity Series race from the grandstands, I had forgotten just how exciting it is to see the cars speed past you at 190 mph on a mile and a half track. There are the sounds of the roaring engines, the feel of the air blowing on you and the sight-pleasing kaleidoscope of colors.

For those race fans who haven’t been to Kentucky, Charlotte and Atlanta, I strongly encourage you to see NASCAR races at these larger Speedway Motorsports tracks. They give you a different perspective than the short track at Bristol. Furthermore, they have different characteristics on and off the tracks, which make them special.

Charlotte is such a great trip with the NASCAR Hall of Fame downtown and all the race shops. Atlanta is a terrific trip if you’re more of an overall sports fan, with the College Football Hall of Fame representing a great destination.

As for Kentucky, it’s a beautiful speedway with easy access from Interstate 71. It offers great vantage points for fans and it’s a rush to see the race cars coming off turn four or powering full speed by the start-finish line. During the Alsco 300, Christopher Bell had the field covered early, but he couldn’t make up ground on Cole Custer in the final stage.

OFF THE TRACK

The Bluegrass State is certainly beautiful as the first part of the vacation was a camping trip near Cumberland Falls, known as the “Niagara of the South.” With Kentucky Speedway’s proximity to other larger cities, some choose to stay in Cincinnati, Lexington or Louisville. We stayed in the capital city of Frankfort.

It’s a great little town to walk around and if you’re a history nerd like me, some of the sites included the state capitol, the governor’s mansion, the old state capitol and the Kentucky State Museum. For cinema fans, it’s the childhood home of actor Johnny Depp, famous for the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

AT THE TRACK

If you’re simply interested in going to the races, it’s an easy set-up for fans, as the souvenir trailers and other interactive displays are located right outside the track entrances.

If you’re wanting to see the whole track, it’s a must to be in the grandstands — which feature great sight lines.

If you want to be next to the action, there are plenty of positives to being in the pits.

Obviously, there’s the excitement of watching the teams make pit stops with the fans taking photos and videos. From where I was standing, I saw pole sitter Daniel Suarez get penalized two laps for a speeding penalty on pit road.

Beyond that, there are nuances that longtime fans will pick up on.

At Kentucky on Saturday, it was interesting to see car owner Joe Gibbs in the 18 pits. He was getting updates from each of his teams. He watched pit stops and was with the crew members checking out the video at the back of the pit box.

In addition, Toyota representatives were watching the race from the 11 car’s pits.

ON THE TRACK

Kyle Busch put on quite a driving exhibition, although his older brother, Kurt, took home the winner’s trophy. While television does a good job of communicating Kyle Busch’s skill, he puts his car in positions many other drivers won’t.

In seventh place after an early restart, Busch made a series of daring moves and worked his way to second place by lap 102. Three laps later, he took over the lead.

It appeared that Logano had beaten Kyle Busch after passing him for the lead. A late-race caution for Bubba Wallace’s damaged machine changed that. It set up the green-white-checkered finish with the Busch brothers overtaking Logano on the restart.

On the final lap, Kurt Busch used the high line to earn his first win of the season. It was a win that proved to be very popular with the Kentucky fans. After the race, many stood outside victory lane to make the celebration even more colorful.

Overall, it was fun taking in the action from a fan’s perspective. I highly recommend a visit to Kentucky Speedway, a truly great facility, for local NASCAR fans looking for a good road trip.

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