Mash The Gas – Kentucky Speedway

It’s back under the lights for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as the Kentucky Speedway hosts the Quaker State 400 Saturday night. The Kentucky Speedway is the newest circuit on the Sprint Cup tour, having hosted just two events prior to this weekend. The facility is located in Florence, Kentucky, within shouting distance of the Ohio border and the outskirts of Cincinnati. The speedway has hosted numerous NASCAR Nationwide races and with its mile and a half configuration one needs to look at drivers with experience here as well as those who have performed well on similar tracks when attempting to handicap the race.

The green flag is scheduled to fly at 7:45pm EDT underneath the Kentucky Speedway lights Saturday night, June 29th. Drivers will race on the 1.5 mile track with 14 degree banked turns for 267 laps comprising the 401 mile distance.

The following are the drivers we think you should be watching.

Kyle Busch

Dan Margetta: Kyle Busch already has a Kentucky victory under his belt, having claimed top honors in the inaugural event in 2011. His other Kentucky finish was inside the top ten and he has led a whopping 243 laps here in both events, almost 100 more than his closest competitor. Busch’s season has really been up and down this year, but most of the upswings have occurred on mile and a half tracks. If he can avoid the bad luck that has popped up at times in 2013, Kyle Busch should be the driver to beat on Saturday night.

Brad Keselowski

John Wiedemann: Brad Keselowski is still on the edge of the top ten in the point standings and could be considered in danger of falling out. I still believe that there will be a big turnaround for this team and a hot streak will ensue. That hot streak just may start this weekend. With a win last year and a seventh place run in 2011 as well as leading the second most laps in each race means Keselowski has this place figured out. My prediction for this weekend has Keselowski battling Kyle Busch for the win, which would be fun to watch as well.

Matt Kenseth

DM: Two of Matt Kenseth’s three wins in 2013 have come on the mile and a half tracks at Las Vegas and Kansas, where he thoroughly dominated. Kenseth has never led a lap at Kentucky in Sprint Cup competition but that should change Saturday night as the #20 team looks for win #4 to break the tie with Jimmie Johnson for most wins on the year. Same story here as well, avoid the mechanical issues and Matt Kenseth could be who everyone else is chasing Saturday night. Besides, Kentucky is the closest track to Toyota’s Lexington headquarters and a strong showing is anticipated.

Jeff Gordon

JW: Jeff Gordon needs a spark and last weekend’s runner-up finish at Sonoma may be it. Gordon moved up three places in the standings and is twelve points behind tenth place. Gordon has top ten finishes in both races at Kentucky and is in the top three for green flag passes and quality passes. I’m sure the drama of making the Chase last year is something the #24 driver would like to avoid this season. A solid top five run at his weekend’s race would go a long way to climbing in the standings and avoiding the last minute drama.

Kasey Kahne

DM: Kasey Kahne has scored the most points on the mile and a half tracks this season without a win to show for it. The team has shown some strong performances lately only to have pit calls, set-up issues, and plain bad luck derail their chances at victory. Kahne has slipped out of the top ten in points and into the wildcard battle because of it and they have to be looking at the mile and a half Kentucky Speedway the place to get back on top of their game.

Jimmie Johnson

JW: Is the point leader experimenting or will he just spank the field? Averaging a ninth place finish (including his 22nd place at Charlotte), Jimmie Johnson has run pretty well at the mile and a half racetracks… Pretty well for some drivers. You can bet the #48 team is working hard to improve considering mile-and-a-half track importance in the Chase. Johnson has a pole, a top five and another top ten finish at Kentucky. He has spent almost 98% of the laps run in the top 15 and has an average finish of 4.5. And even if they are experimenting, they can still spank the field.

Joey Logano

DM: Joey Logano is my long shot pick this week as he has had tremendous success at Kentucky in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Logano’s Kentucky Cup finishes are a mediocre 14th and 22nd, but this year he rolls into Kentucky driving for Penske Racing, an organization that has always placed its cars in the top ten at Kentucky. Logano has progressed nicely this season and Kentucky is a track that fits him perfectly to break into victory lane. Las Vegas opened Logano up at 30-1 and he’s definitely worth a look when it comes to finding a driver who may slip under the radar and come away with a win.

Denny Hamlin
JW: Many are predicting the end to Denny Hamlin’s Chase chances after last week’s run at Sonoma. I disagree. Hamlin is a driver that can pull off a number of wins prior to the Chase and just looking at what Tony Stewart did in four weeks time should prove that a jump in the standings is possible. Yes, I know that the difference between where Hamlin is right now and the top twenty is eighty-three points. There still is a Pocono and Michigan race prior to the last chance at Richmond. There are three wins right there, plus a fourth if he wins this weekend at Kentucky. So, I’m telling you there is a chance.

Martin Truex Jr.

JW: Congrats to Martin Truex Jr. on capturing his second win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Truex said in victory lane that more wins are coming – “We are going to get a bunch of them now, I can tell you that.” That prediction would be fun to see. For an organization which made a huge jump in competitiveness last season, Michael Waltrip Racing could have both Clint Bowyer and Truex battling for the championship. Go get ’em Martin.

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