Officials don't feel jammed by Kentucky traffic

Associated Press Published: June 30, 2012
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"We will outdraw this horsey race you talk about," Smith said in 2011, adding that the car race would be larger than any Kentucky Derby.

The Derby was coming off a record attendance in 2011 and set a new mark in 2012 with more than 165,000 fans attending. Smith didn't back away from those comments Saturday, instead doubling down with a somewhat playful challenge.

"What I'd like for them to do is come forth and swear and give us a sworn statement that they had that many people," the 85-year-old Smith said. "If they do that, then we'll continue the argument."

Smith doesn't expect a sellout for Saturday's race but did predict a crowd "in excess of 100,000."

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TOUGH ROAD: Points leader Matt Kenseth's series-shaking revelation earlier this week that he is leaving Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the season may have a profound impact on how he finishes out the year.

Dale Earnhardt and Clint Bowyer have been down that road.

Earnhardt left the team his father founded in May 2007 to sign with Hendrick Motorsports.

"As tough as it is and as many unknowns as there are about a move like that, more often than not things work themselves out," Earnhardt said. "Everybody kind of ends up in a better place."

That doesn't mean it will be easy.

"It will be a little tough with the transition just emotionally because he's been in the same place for so long," Earnhardt added. "But eventually it will lead to better days and he'll find out that things are going to work out just fine."

After spending his entire NASCAR career with Richard Childress Racing, Clint Bowyer jumped to Michael Waltrip's team a year ago.

"For me, it was very hard to keep that momentum going," Bowyer said. "Everybody was kind of wanting to give up on the season and get it over with."

For his part, Kenseth said every member of the team needed to pull together to concentrate on winning now, not at some point in the future.

"It has really just been business as usual at the race track," he said. "It hasn't really changed anything with what we do or go about it or think about it. Every time you go to the track you want to do the best you can and race as hard as you can and try to win races. There is no incentive for any of us to not do that."

Carl Edwards believes that Kenseth, more than most, can make the move successfully for all parties.

"I don't think there is anyone more mentally tough than Matt Kenseth," he said. "I would imagine the difficult stuff is behind him now and he can go out and race and do the best he can."

He starts 20th in Saturday night's grid.

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DON'T QUOTE ME: Driver Kevin Harvick denied that he said over his radio at last week's race that his entire crew's jobs were in jeopardy if things didn't turn around soon.

"I never said that. I never said everybody," he said. "I said that everybody needed to step up and do exactly what they need to do and I was tired of sitting in the seat and making up for mistakes. We have made a ton of mistakes this year. I said we were all going to lose our jobs if we all kept losing. I never pointed out anybody and said that I was going to fire them. I said we were all going to lose our jobs."

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BUMPY RIDE: Like snowflakes and fingerprints, all race tracks are unique.

The 1.5-mile oval at Kentucky Raceway is known for its somewhat uneven surfaces. Several drivers discussing the track this week have grinned while saying it has "a lot of character."

Some have been less charitable, while trying to be upbeat.

"The bumps are frequent and everywhere," Jimmie Johnson said. "It doesn't matter which lane you're in, they're all around the race track. And that challenge, I think means better racing and will make multiple lanes available for the drivers."

Yet it's not always easy finding that lane.

"It's a little rough and the groove is not real distinct," Dale Earnhardt said. "Every time you change tires you kind of have to be ready to move around a little bit and find out where your car is fast and where that set of tires wants to run on the race track."

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DODGING DODGE: Penske Racing has still not made a decision how it will handle engines next season when it leaves Dodge for manufacturer Ford.

But team president Tim Cindric has denied an Internet report that claims Penske has sold its engine shop to Michael Andretti.

"Contrary to recent published speculation, Penske Racing has not sold its engine company," Cindric said in a statement Saturday morning. "The team's focus continues to be on successfully completing the 2012 season, competing for championships and victories in the both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series for Dodge and our other sponsor partners."

There has been speculation that Michael Andretti will form a NASCAR program with Dodge, and one published report claimed Penske had sold his engine shop to his fellow IndyCar team owner so that Andretti can build Dodge engines.

Penske could keep his engine shop and build Ford's next season, but Roush Yates Engine currently supplies for all Ford teams and the manufacturer prefers that arrangement. Penske has always built his own engines.

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AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report.

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