Race: Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts
Date: July 9, 2016
Track: Kentucky Speedway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
If there ever was someone to dominate a race at Daytona, Brad Keselowski sure found out how to do just that. Ford must be on to something because theyíve steadily improved over the last few races, now with Keselowski earning his first win at Daytona. While it is true that he seemed to have Talladega figured out pretty well, there was just something about Daytona that seemed to elude him. Well, not anymore. Keselowski can add this to his book of wins now. His teammate, Joey Logano, wanted the win pretty badly too, although Iím not too sure that knocking out Kurt Busch was the way to go being that Logano was mired in 5th place. Iíll take a gander and say that Busch is not going to let that one go. Look for some retaliation in the near future.
Speaking of retaliation, Logano has a great shot this weekend as we head to Kentucky. This is a great track for Penske in general, but Logano thrives here. Busch will most certainly try to eliminate any hopes of Logano winning if I had to guess. I believe that Ford will give us a lot to think about this weekend. Kentucky is a fun track for drivers and fans alike. Although not boasting the superspeedway mentality of Daytona, Kentucky has its own persona. Itís a track that gives drivers a lot of speed and also a lot of challenges into and out of the corners.
But, there are some major changes that have occurred since the drivers last saw and raced on the track. Kentucky is completely repaved. You can only imagine what kind of craziness this is going to throw into the mix. This track is newly repaved as an asphalt track with some modifications made in turns 1 and 2 as well. This throws quite the wrench into the scheme, as these guys are used to a bumpy rough drive here at Kentucky. This will undoubtedly change the face of the race. How will tires hold up? How are drivers going to maneuver the changes in the turns? All of these questions will have to be answered on Saturday night, as the drivers make their first race laps around the track. Practice sessions and the truck and Xfinity races will give a little insight, but thereís nothing comparable to simply racing the on the new surface. The best part about the repave project is probably the addition of safer barriers throughout the track. I think that this should be mandatory on any track that these guys are at, and Iím certainly glad to see it happen here.
This 1.5 mile asphalt oval is going to give the drivers a new challenge this weekend to figure out the best groove. Typically, when a track is repaved, especially with an asphalt surface, a single groove emerges. This provides some frustration to the drivers, as they are used to side by side racing and many passing opportunities at a track that is so worn. Under this new repave, drivers will likely experience fewer racing grooves and opportunities to pass overall. Itís important to see whoís done well here in the past, but I do think that this new surface may change things up a bit or at least make it a little more challenging to our typical do-gooders at Kentucky. Hereís a look at your potential winners this weekend:
My Pick to Win: Kyle Busch
Middle of the Road Pick: Martin Truex Jr.
Dark Horse Prediction: Ryan Blaney.
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So Kyle Busch isnít exactly a stretch. Heís got Kentucky pretty well figured out. Honestly, though, if any driver can come to a new surface and dominate, itís going to be him. With his experience and success at this track on top of his driving style, look for Busch to be reaching for victory lane this weekend. Martin Truex Jr. seems to be figuring out these 1.5 mile tracks pretty well. Although this is a tri-oval and a repave, Truex should have no problem getting around Kentucky this weekend. Finally, Ryan Blaney has been pretty decent on the 1.5 miles as well. I feel like heís looking for a little bit of redemption for some not so great finishes recently, and this is a solid track to make that run. Heís also sitting in 15th spot in the points, grasping for straws, so this could be a good pick me up for him.
Here are your current top 16 after last week's race:
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Kurt Busch
4. Joey Logano
5. Carl Edwards
6. Kyle Busch
7. Martin Truex Jr.
8. Chase Elliot
9. Jimmie Johnson
10. Denny Hamlin
11. Matt Kenseth
12. Austin Dillon
13. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
14. Ryan Newman
15. Ryan Blaney
16. Jamie McMurray
There are quite a few drivers here still without a win in the top 16 in points. Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Chase Elliot, Jamie McMurray, Austin DillonÖall of these drivers will be fighting their hardest week in and week out to secure their position in the Chase. Let us also not forget Tony Stewart, who needs to increase his points standings in order for his win to mean a spot in the Chase. There are a lot of variables playing into this weekendís race at Kentucky. Ford is bringing more power, although Toyota will likely manage to trump it. Kentucky is a brand new surface for these guys. Oh, and weíre getting closer and closer to the Chase. Overall, this Saturday night race will surely be full of fireworks. Stay tuned for a great night of racing at Kentucky Speedway!
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