Success at Kentucky Speedway could hinge on mastering Turn 3

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Roaring into Turn 3 at Kentucky Speedway is a bit like “taking a hard left in a parking lot,” Erik Jones described Friday at the 1.5-mile track that hosts tonight’s Cup race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Jones, who won last weekend’s race at Daytona was asked about the challenges of navigating the turn, which boasts 14 degrees of banking.

That’s different from the 17 degrees of banking in Turns 1 and 2, which was elevated as a part of a repave two years ago.

“It’s become more difficult since the repave, so when they reconfigured (Turns) 1 and 2 and made it a lot faster and you’re carrying so much speed into Turn 3,” Jones said. “It’s so flat and so wide and, you know, the tough balance obviously is … getting your heights right through (Turns) 1 and 2 and making sure your car is just as low as it can be in (Turns) 3 and 4, which it’s never really going to be, but if you can get your car handling really well down there and really, really hooking the line well and getting in the corners secure, you’re going to be in a pretty good spot.”

Mastering the flat turn that sits at the end of the 1,600-foot backstretch is an important ingredient to being successful at the 1.5-mile track, according to Kyle Busch.

“It just has its own characteristics and it’s own challenges that are tough to deal with,” said Busch, who won at Kentucky twice before the repave and reconfiguration. “Especially in traffic. Restarts are hectic trying to figure all that out … how you interpret that corner or how you try to decipher is corner is what makes people good here.”

Martin Truex Jr. has figured out his way around the track, leading 198 laps in his last two starts and winning last year’s race.

“Turn 3 is tough for sure, it seems like this year is maybe a little easier with the new (left-side) tires they brought here,” he said. “Since they changed (Turns) 1 and 2 and put more banking there, you’re carrying a lot more speed down the back straightaway. You’re going into a really flat corner, going too fast and the car just doesn’t want to work. It’s a really loose corner and most of it is because the way Turn 2 is set up.”

While much of the field will be making its second start on the reformatted track, Alex Bowman will be making his first.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver hasn’t raced at Kentucky since 2015.

“Luckily for me we have the simulator and a lot of really good tools at Chevy and at Hendrick Motorsports that I can use to watch footage and run the sim and stuff like that to kind of get me an idea of where I need to lift and all that before I get here,” Bowman said. “We spent half a day in the simulator running here. Hopefully, that will help, but if I got out and crash on the first lap, I guess that wouldn’t be good either. It is tough.”