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Kentucky Sprint Cup race to be first with fewer than 43 cars in more than a decade

Jun 26, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT

(Photo: Jerry Markland/Getty Images) Getty Images

Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway will likely mark the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race without a full 43-car field in more than a decade.

Unless NASCAR officials would allow a late entry, which appears unlikely at this point, only 42 cars/drivers — according to NASCAR statisticians — will take the green flag in Saturday night’s event on the 1.5-mile tri-oval in Sparta, Kentucky, roughly 35 miles from downtown Cincinnati.

“The current 43-car field in the Sprint Cup Series has evolved over the years, yet it’s not necessarily a magic number,” NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said, according to SportingNews.com. “There are a variety of contributing factors that determine the size of the field, including the ebb and flow of the race teams. A field with less than the maximum is still very much a highly competitive field, and that’s what we’ll have this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.”

The last time there was a field less than the traditional 43 cars was the rescheduled Sprint Cup season finale on Nov. 23, 2001, at New Hampshire International Speedway (now known as New Hampshire Motor Speedway).

The race was originally scheduled for Sept. 16, 2001, but was postponed due to the 9/11 tragedy.

Robby Gordon won that event, his first career Sprint Cup victory, and the first of three in Gordon’s overall Cup career.

Ironically enough, Gordon was sponsored in that race by Lowe’s, which would move to Jimmie Johnson‘s team in 2002 – and the rest is NASCAR history.

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