Kentucky Speedway

Quaker State 400 notes: Harvick says fatherhood has been ‘game changer’

Kevin Harvick (4) and Martin Truex Jr. (78) led the field in a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night.
Kevin Harvick (4) and Martin Truex Jr. (78) led the field in a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night. NASCAR via Getty Images

It turns out, not even star NASCAR drivers are immune from work/family time conflicts.

While Kevin Harvick was at Kentucky Speedway this weekend for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts, he was missing his son Keelan’s fourth birthday.

Keelan Harvick, the only child of Harvick, 40, and his wife, DeLana, 43, turned 4 Friday.

“I don’t believe I’ve been home for any of his birthdays,” Kevin Harvick said.

Yet noting how often he is able to bring Keelan to tracks where he races, Kevin Harvick says “NASCAR driver” is actually a good job for father/son bonding time.

“It’s not normal for you to get to take your son to work most places,” the 2014 Sprint Cup champion said. “I’m pretty fortunate to be able to take (Keelan) a lot and let him be a part of what I do for a living. I think I’m around him more than most people who have 9-to-5 jobs. So we’re very fortunate.”

Harvick said becoming a father “definitely changed the direction of DeLana and (my) lives, (changed) how we approach things, and think about things and the things (we) do. It’s been a game-changer.”

IndyCar return?

As the original Kentucky Speedway racing surface grew progressively bumpier in recent years, Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger said often there was no point in even talking about a return of the IndyCar Series until Kentucky Speedway underwent a repave.

Of course, that repave happened this year.

But Simendinger said there have been no talks with IndyCar. That series — the cars that run in the Indianapolis 500 — raced at Kentucky every year from 2000-2012.

“I think step one is going to be — probably next year — I’d like to get some IndyCars on the (new) racetrack and see how they do,” Simendinger said. “I have to believe they would like it. (The next step) there are a lot of business issues that would need to get worked out.”

Noting that the IndyCar Series schedule is currently split among oval tracks, road courses and street courses, Simendinger said he had no sense for whether IndyCar would even want to add another oval like Kentucky.

“I’d love to have them back from a competition standpoint,” Simendinger said. “I loved it. Great racing. Really great racing. But it would have to make some business sense.”

Kentucky drivers

After starting ninth in Thursday night’s Camping World Truck Series race, Louisville teenager Ben Rhodes ran as high as sixth. But problems on a pit stop caused the 19-year-to restart 21st and he settled for a 13th-place finish in a race won by William Byron.

Said Rhodes: “We had a bad stop there at the end, when a tear-off wouldn’t come off the windshield, and we got stuck in the back. For us, track conditions got looser and looser and I just couldn’t pass any trucks.”

In Friday night’s Xfinity Series race, Owensboro native Jeff Green, driving an unsponsored Toyota for car owner Mark Smith, finished 33rd.

No Kentuckian has ever won a major race at Kentucky Speedway. The best finish by a Kentucky native in one of NASCAR’s three national touring series in Sparta was a fifth by David Green, Jeff’s older brother, in the 2007 trucks race.

Battle at Bristol

As the Vice-President of Operations and Development for Speedway Motorsports, Inc., the company that owns Kentucky Speedway, Steve Swift played a big role in the reconfiguring and repaving of track.

Swift’s next major challenge will be at the SMI-owned Bristol Motor Speedway.

On Aug. 20, Bristol will hold its famed Sprint Cup night race.

Once the last hauler pulls out after the race, Swift and crew will have until Sept. 10 to get Bristol Motor Speedway ready to play host to a major-college football game for the first time.

The “Battle at Bristol” between Tennessee and Virginia Tech has already sold 150,000 tickets.

“That 20 days is going to be a hectic 20 days,” Swift said. Among the things that will have to be done is installing the football field inside the iconic auto racing venue.

“It’s not just the field itself,” Swift says. “(It’s) the fencing, the stairs, the temporary bleachers, the locker room, all the support stuff (that will have to be installed). It will take us the full 20 days.”

It hasn’t quite gotten the same level of attention as the UT-Va. Tech matchup, but on Sept. 17, East Tennessee State will play Western Carolina at Bristol Motor Speedway.