Drivers generally regard the repaving of a racetrack as a negative, but Kentucky Speedway avoided any scorn in its first race weekend since undergoing a total repave and reconfiguration.

On Friday, Brad Keselowski went so far as to say the 1.5-mile track was a joy to drive.

"What it lacks in bumps now, it still retains in character," Carl Edwards remarked. "I think that's a good thing."

Steve Swift heard similar sentiments before the main event of the tripleheader race weekend, Saturday's Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts.

As the vice president of operations and development for Kentucky Speedway's parent company, Speedway Motorsports Inc., he coordinated the renovation project that included repaving the entire track with 17,000 tons of asphalt, improving the drainage system, narrowing the track in Turns 1 and 2 and adding three degrees of banking in that same corner of the track.

"I haven't heard anything negative," Swift said. "They haven't said that we did anything wrong or should have done something better. Everything that I've heard has been good."

The drainage system got its first tests Wednesday and Friday. In each instance, the track was dried in 90 minutes or less.

"We ended up with probably one of the hardest tracks on the circuit to dry to one of the quickest tracks to dry," said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. "The two times that we had to put the (track drying) equipment out there, the track dried really good and the drainage that they put in just worked fantastic….That's a huge plus."

The track also benefitted from a coarser asphalt mix and a curing process that advanced its age. The work included applying hydrated lime to help draw out the oils from the asphalt and utilizing a "Tire Dragon" to work rubber into the surface.

Based on what he saw in the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series races, Swift thinks the racing will only get better as the track ages.

"They were passing, and the ability to pass is something you never see on a repave," he said. "Even if it's a little bit better, we made it better than what a normal repave would be."

Swift also credited NASCAR and Goodyear for collaborating with the speedway during the renovation.

"We've known as an industry that the repaves are very, very difficult historically," Miller said. "This was no different but, really, the action in all three of the events this weekend, I thought, turned out really well. We had a lot of action. It was a little dicey getting down in there into Turn 3 on the restarts especially. I think the low, low downforce package helped at this race on the repave….I think all in all it was a really great weekend here at Kentucky Speedway."

FIELD TO FORD: Self-described adventurer, artist, athlete, activist, and author Dhani Jones served as the honorary pace truck driver for the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts. Jones played in 62 career games with the Cincinnati Bengals from 2007-2010 and is the host of NBC's new alternative series, "Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge."

"My instruction period was great. I was told just one thing: Don't hit the brake," Jones said.

Saturday wasn't his first visit to Kentucky Speedway. In 2010, he delivered the command to start engines for an XFINITY Series race as its grand marshal.

"I think I put a little twist on it or something," Jones said of the command. "Then I heard from some other people involved in NASCAR that sometimes you're not supposed to put a twist on it. But what's done is done.

"Today, I'm not going to put a twist on driving around the track. I'm just going to put it in drive and gradually get up to 45 mph, put it in cruise control so nobody blames me for going too fast and pull onto pit road even though if I keep going around I could win. It's true."

STARS SHINE: The Quaker State 400 always draws plenty of dignitaries and Saturday was no different. Among those in attendance were Speedway Motorsports Inc. executive chairman and NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bruton Smith and Kentucky 4th District U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie.

Former University of Kentucky men's basketball coach Joe B. Hall joined former Wildcats Jack "Goose" Givens and Kyle Macy in presenting Tony Stewart with a UK basketball jersey during driver introductions. The No. 14 jersey - Stewart's car number - was adorned with the driver's nickname (Smoke) on the back.

Stewart is retiring from Sprint Cup competition after this season, so Saturday's race was his final start at Kentucky Speedway. It also marked the 600th of his Sprint Cup career. He finished fifth.

Kentucky Speedway and Ford also honored two men who earned the nation's highest military decoration by inducting Medal of Honor recipients Col. Walter Joseph Marm, Jr. and Col. Donald E. Ballard into the Ford Oval of Honor.

"It's very humbling to be among the NASCAR family," said Marm, who lives in Fremont, North Carolina. "I used to race myself. I raced Formula Vee in the Sports Car Club of America and I had a lot of fun doing it."