NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship leader Kevin Harvick arrived at Kentucky Speedway Thursday morning with an appreciation for the significance of the weekend ahead as the countdown continues for Saturday night's inaugural "Quaker State 400".

"This is a big day for our sport. Kentucky Speedway has been a great facility over the years. I was fortunate enough to come here in 2001 and win the inaugural Nationwide race here," Harvick said during a press conference at Kentucky Speedway. "It's a fun race track, and the enthusiasm from the fans and the sponsors is great. I'm excited about it and looking forward to getting the weekend started."

Harvick, who will drive the Richard Childress Racing team's No. 29 machine in Saturday's "Quaker State 400", is one of 17 drivers on preliminary entry lists for this weekend's events who have captured 23 combined Kentucky Speedway victories across NNS, NASCAR Camping World Truck and ARCA Racing Series competition.

He said racing at Kentucky Speedway offers challenges that are both known and unknown.

"The thing you're never going to know until the race starts is how the race is going to play out, how the cars are going to really react after being in traffic for 300 or 400 miles," said Harvick, who also won the inaugural NSCS race in Chicago in 2001. "We have our notebooks from Nationwide and Truck. I think we have a good idea of where the racetrack will go once it gets really dark after watching Truck practice last night.

"There are a lot of bumps, and that's not a bad thing. Character is good in a racetrack. It's been ground in a lot of different places. There's really no comparison to Chicago or Kansas or anything like that. It's definitely got its own character."

NCWTS drivers opened a huge day of action at Kentucky Speedway that will feature six hours of Sprint Cup Series testing for the "Quaker State 400", NASCAR Nationwide Series "Feed The Children 300" practice and "UNOH 225" qualifying. Full gates will open at 2:00 p.m. The green flag waves on the "UNOH 225" at 8:00 p.m., marking the 12th NCWTS race in track history and first on a Thursday night.

Tickets remain and can be purchased at the Kentucky Speedway corporate office at 1 Speedway Drive, in Sparta, Ky., just off Interstate 71 Exit 57 and state Highway 35 north or by phone at 859-578-2300..

Story by Jeff Hibbs

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