Mash The Gas - Kentucky
by Dan Margetta
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series rolls into the greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky area for the Quaker State 400, the second ever Sprint Cup race contested at the Kentucky Speedway. Due to the short history of this race, teams have limited set-up notes to draw from, making this race somewhat unpredictable.
Kyle Busch-A dominant win last season makes Busch the favorite this year as well. The team could use a solid finish this week as numerous weeks of problems have dropped them out of the top ten in points. They barely hold one of the wildcard Chase slots and wins matter tremendously at this point.
Joey Logano-While Logano has quietly ripped off top ten finishes in four of the last six races including a win at Pocono, the seat of the #20 Home Depot Toyota remains as hot as the weather forecast for Kentucky. Logano has responded to the pressure impressively and his Nationwide Series statistics at Kentucky are phenomenal.
Martin Truex Jr.-Truex dominated the race at Kansas earlier in the season and Kentucky's layout is similar. While the victory was snatched from them at Kansas, the MWR teams are continuing to run well and Truex could be due to break through for a victory.
Tony Stewart-If race cars have personalities, then the car Stewart will bring to Kentucky should roll through the garage with confidence. This car kicked off the amazing Chase run last year with a win at Chicago and then destroyed the field earlier this year at Las Vegas. Stewart has had some strong runs on the mile and a half tracks this year and I look for Stewart to challenge for the win Saturday night.
Jimmie Johnson-Johnson is currently riding a streak of four top five finishes in a row and this team hits Kentucky in stride. Johnson had strong runs earlier this year at similar tracks at Las Vegas and Kentucky when the team seemed like it hadn't performed at their full potential. That's not the case with Kentucky this week and they could definitely improve on last year's third place finish.
Greg Biffle-Biffle along with teammate Matt Kenseth, have proven to be very strong on the mile and a half tracks this season with Biffle taking the win at Texas. Biffle also posted top five finishes at Las Vegas and Kansas and should be strong at Kentucky although the car he will drive last posted a 22nd place finish in the All-Star race at Charlotte.
Matt Kenseth-Normally Kenseth would be a lock for a good run as the team has showed consistency in running fast all season long. Kenseth's plans to race elsewhere next season present a kink to the routine this week and while all the talk has centered on the news having no effect on the 17 team, results on the racetrack are the best way to prove it.
Kurt Busch-I scored a win last week with my long shot pick of Clint Bowyer and this week, I'm going with Kurt Busch. Busch should build on the momentum of his third place run last week and the Phoenix Racing guys should want to work hard to keep Busch close to the front this weekend at Kentucky.
Another story to watch is the Chase wildcard race as the weeks until Richmond's cut-off run short. Currently Kyle Busch (12th in points) and Ryan Newman (13th in points) hold the slots by virtue of their respective victories at Richmond and Martinsville. However Carl Edwards sits 11th in points and is still desperately seeking his first victory of the season and Joey Logano (15th in points) and Kasey Kahne (17th in points) also have victories this season and are within striking distance.