NASCAR Kentucky Speedway Weekend Preview

SPARTA, KENTUCKY - JULY 08: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Snickers Toyota, leads Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota and the rest of the field at the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway on July 8, 2017 in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

There is probably no one more ready to pull into Kentucky Speedway than Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski. A three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner at the 1.5-mile track – best among his peers – Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 (at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) may be just the kind of panacea his season could use.

The 2012 Monster Energy Series champion remains surprisingly winless through the opening 18 races, but his record in Kentucky gives him every rightful reason to be optimistic.

In addition to Keselowski’s three Cup wins here (in 2012, 2014, and 2016), he has three NASCAR Xfinity Series race trophies too.  He won the pole position and led a record 199 of the 267 laps in his 2014 Cup triumph.

It may be just the motivation and expectation to right the ship for Penske’s No. 2 Ford team. Although he was involved in an accident Saturday night in Daytona Beach (his fourth DNF of the year), Keselowski has five top-10 finishes in the previous seven races leading into Daytona. Importantly, he has four top 10s in the six 1.5-mile tracks the series has run already in 2018. And his runner-up finish on the Atlanta mile-and-a-half is his best showing of any race this year.

Keselowski, 34, has won at least one race in the last seven seasons – and he’s won in eight of the past nine years leading into 2018.

He has the second-best driver rating at Kentucky (109.6) and is ranked among the top-10 in all major statistical categories. He’s finished seventh or better in five of the seven races at Kentucky. And he’s tops in one that’s not official – he’s won the last three races in even numbered years. It’s 2018.

KENTUCKY CRUISING

Count NASCAR Xfinity Series championship leader Elliott Sadler among those most eager to strap into his race car for Friday’s Alsco 300 (at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Kentucky Speedway is home to the veteran’s last series win 55 races ago.

He has nine top-10 finishes in 13 Xfinity races at the track, including five top-five efforts. And Sadler is coming off a runner-up finish at Daytona last weekend to re-take the championship lead. He has 14 top-10 efforts in 16 races this season.

The JR Motorsports driver may well need all the knowledge and experience he’s collected here because recently this venue has been a place for brand new winners – boasting six first-time series winners. Tyler Reddick joined that list just last year and four of the six earned their win in the summer running of the race.

TRUCKS UP

The Camping World Truck Series starts NASCAR’s highly-anticipated triple-header summer weekend at Kentucky Speedway with the Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 on Thursday (at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

With Brett Moffitt’s third victory of the season coming in Chicago two weeks ago, the popular young driver maintained his place among the series frontrunners. He is ranked third in the points standings heading into Thursday night’s Kentucky race, behind 19-year old Noah Gragson and points leader, Johnny Sauter.

A four-time winner this season, the former series champion Sauter is hoping to make his own history with an unprecedented fifth win in a single season. Kentucky has been a productive venue for Sauter, but he has yet to win there. He has six top-10 finishes in 11 starts and won the pole position twice – including last year.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart

The Place: Kentucky Speedway

The Date: Saturday, July 14

The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBCSN

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400 miles (267 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 80),

Stage 2 (Ends on lap 160), and Final Stage (Ends on lap 267)

What to Watch For: Starting position has been especially telling at Kentucky. Four of the seven races have been won from the front row. Six of the seven have been won from a top-10 place on the grid. …Toyota’s victory Saturday in Daytona Beach gives it a series best nine wins this season. …Erik Jones’ final lap victory at Daytona last weekend means that the winner of both 2018 Daytona races led only the last lap. …  Chevrolet is looking for its first victory at Kentucky. It’s the only active track on the schedule where the make has not won yet. … Brad Keselowski (3) and Kyle Busch (2) are the only multi-time winners at the track… Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing lead all organizations with three victories each. …Keselowski’s 2014 win is only time this race has been won from the pole.  … Kyle Busch leads all drivers with five top-five finishes. Denny Hamlin, Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman have three top fives each here. … This will mark Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman’s 100th start. … A victory this week for Jimmie Johnson would be his 84th and tie the seven-time champion for fourth place on the all-time wins list with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Alsco 300

The Place: Kentucky Speedway

The Date: Friday, July 13

The Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: NBCSN

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45),

Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), and Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)

What to Watch For: Christopher Bell’s third-place at Daytona last week surged his Rookie of the Year advantage to 44 points over Tyler Reddick. … They are the only drivers locked into the Playoffs to date. … There have been six first-time winners at Kentucky, most recently Reddick in September, 2017. … Three Monster Energy Cup drivers are entered this weekend – Kyle Busch, Ty Dillon and Paul Menard. … Points leader Elliott Sadler scored his last career win at Kentucky, winning in September, 2016. …Sadler holds a 16-point lead over Daniel Hemric in the standings – both drivers still looking for their first win of the year.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Next Race: Buckle Up In Your Truck 225

The Place: Kentucky Speedway

The Date: Thursday, July 12

The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 225 miles (150 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 35),

Stage 2 (Ends on lap 70), and Final Stage (Ends on lap 150)

What to Watch For:  Former series champion Matt Crafton is the only driver entered this week with a previous win (in 2015) at Kentucky. … Brett Moffitt, who won the series’ last race in Chicago two weeks ago, made his series debut at Kentucky in 2013. …Johnny Sauter holds a 66-point advantage over Noah Gragson in the standings. The former champion Sauter is looking to win five races in a season for the first time in his career. … Gragson, 19, has earned a top-five starting position in all but one race this year and won three pole positions (at Dover, Del., Kansas and Chicago). His six stage wins is best in the series. … Only three drivers have won multiple times at Kentucky – Ron Hornaday Jr., James Buescher and Kyle Busch – and none of them are in this week’s field. …. Myatt Snider is besting this year’s large rookie crop, ranked ninth with five top-10s. Dalton Sargeant is the next highest ranking rookie in 11th. And Todd Gilliland, who just turned 18 and missed four of the 11 races – leads all rookies with 64 laps led. His runner-up at Gateway Motorsports Park is best among the rookie class.

Comments