Kentucky Speedway

It’s a house divided for one of NASCAR’s biggest UK basketball fans

Travis Mack, a crew chief for Dale Earnhart Jr.s JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, is one of NASCAR’s biggest Kentucky Wildcats basketball fans.

If you wonder what it is like for the Male High School graduate to live in North Carolina — where most NASCAR race teams are based — as a Kentucky fan, Mack reports it can be complicated.

His wife, Lyndsay, is an ardent North Carolina Tar Heels fan.

“I actually have a license plate on my truck that says ‘House Divided,’ that has the UK and UNC logos on there,” Mack says. “That’s pretty cool.”

Mack says he and his wife have a basketball arrangement. “When Kentucky’s not playing North Carolina, I root for the (Tar Heels),” Mack says. “And my wife does the same for UK.”

The couple has also found one other piece of basketball common ground.

“We’ve both agreed to hate Duke,” Mack says. “That has worked out pretty well.”

Mack, crew chief for Michael Annett’s No. 1 Chevrolet, had a good return to Kentucky. Annett finished fourth in Friday night’s Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

Busch brothers recall Kentucky’s debut

This is the 20th year of racing at Kentucky Speedway. The Busch brothers, Kyle and Kurt, have vivid memories of the first major event held at the track — a 2000 NASCAR trucks race.

Greg Biffle, driving for owner Jack Roush, won that inaugural NASCAR race at Kentucky held on June 17, 2000. His teammate, Kurt Busch, then 21-years-old, had a wicked fast truck that night.

However, Kurt Busch crashed in spectacular fashion in Turn 3 after leading 12 laps.

Kyle Busch was 15 at that time.

“I remember my brother’s first start in a truck here,” Kyle Busch said Friday. “He spun a first time, saved it, got back to the lead, spun a second time and crashed it. He was really fast that night.

“But it was just so cool to watch a mile-and-a-half (track) under the lights and how wide (the track) was. It was guys all over the place.”

Kurt Busch still laments not becoming the inaugural winner ever in a NASCAR race at Kentucky.

“I was just a full-on rookie. I was making mistakes,” Kurt Busch says. “I ended up wrecking out. I’ve always felt like I could have won that race here, the inaugural truck race.”

A Dale Earnhardt fan

The hometown of Cup Series driver Daniel Hemric tends to jump off the page.

It is Kannapolis, N.C., hometown of NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt.

Hemric, 28, was 10 when Earnhardt lost his life in a crash in the final turn of the 2001 Daytona 500.

“I remember exactly where I was — at my uncle’s house,” Hemric says. “When it happened, my uncle was like ‘It’s kind of weird he’s not getting out of the car.’”

Hemric says he was sitting in the car with his father at a gas station when the news came over the radio that Earnhardt had died.

“I was heartbroken,” Hemric says. “I don’t think I went back to school for two days. I was a wreck.”

Hemric, who did not know Earnhardt personally, says the racing icon’s death had “a big impact on me as a kid — (I realized) this sport that I had grown to love is dangerous. That’s the first time I really experienced something like that.”

Now driving for Earnhardt’s long-time car owner, Richard Childress, Hemric started sixth in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400.

Retiring DW

Larry McReynolds, the long-time Cup Series crew chief and FOX Sports NASCAR analyst, served as Grand Marshall of the Quaker State 400.

For 19 years, McReynolds worked with NASCAR icon and Owensboro native Darrell Waltrip on FOX Sports telecasts of Cup races.

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Darrell Waltrip’s statue overlooks fans at the Fan Center at Kentucky Speedway. PABLO ALCALA LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

Waltrip, 72, announced that 2019 was his final year in the FOX TV booth. When FOX telecast its final Cup race of this season June 23rd at Sonoma Speedway, that was it for DW.

“(Waltrip) told me he didn’t think Sonoma was going to bother him, and I don’t think it really did,” McReynolds said. “(Because) for all the years we’ve been doing NASCAR on FOX, we (always) ended in Sonoma, anyway. We were gone and didn’t come back until (the following) February.

“(Waltrip) said probably where (being retired) is going to hit him — and this is where his friends are going to have to reach out and embrace him — is when February rolls around and everybody is headed to Daytona Speedweeks and DW is in (Franklin, Tenn., where he lives). That’s probably when (retirement) is going to set in.”

Lorenzen tribute

In Friday night’s Xfinity Series race, the No. 4 Chevrolet driven by B.J. McLeod and owned by Johnny Davis of JD Motorsports ran a paint scheme honoring former Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Jared Lorenzen.

The former UK star died July 3 at age 38.

McLeod finished 20th in the race.

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The No. 4 Chevrolet driven by B.J. McLeod in Friday night’s Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway carried a paint scheme that honored for Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Jared Lorenzen, who died July 3rd. Mark Story


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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a Herald-Leader sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.