Race: Quaker State 400 Picks (Presented by Advance Auto Parts)
Date: Saturday June 29th, 2013
Track: Kentucky Speedway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
Well, Sonoma turned into a bit of a surprise for quite a few drivers. As expected, pit strategy was the name of the game for these guys. Martin Truex Jr. came out victorious winning over 2nd place Jeff Gordon, who had a very strong car. What was interesting is that Juan Pablo Montoya and Martin Truex Jr. both pitted on the same lap; however, Montoya ran out of gas on the last lap, which must’ve made Truex nervous. He was so far ahead of the rest of the field that he probably could’ve coasted to the finish, though.
This week, we are headed to one of my favorite tracks. Kentucky is a place where a lot of action happens despite it being an intermediate track and not a short track or a super speedway. This place is a 1.5 mile tri-oval, which makes it pretty distinct. It has a 1600 foot backstretch and a 1362 foot frontstretch. The banking in the corners is 24 degrees, with the tri-oval coming in at 10 degrees and the straights only 8 degrees. This is a relatively new track, with it opening in 2000.
When we take a look at what’s important here we see that speed is huge. That being said, track position is key. Playing into track position are tires. Guys can make up a lot of time here with good tires, but at the same time, if guys get out front, they start to drive away. It’s going to be very important to take care of tires while also maintaining track position. It’s also going to be important to see who takes 2 and who takes 4 tires and at what point in the race these guys do it because it’s going to be critical in determining when to take tires and how late in the race they are willing to spend the time on pit road to make the most out of it.
There’s not much to look at here in terms of history. Cup drivers have only been here for the past 2 years. Nationwide guys have been coming since 2001. What’s important to notice is that with the exception of 3 years in the Nationwide, all of the winners have been Cup regulars. Taking a look at the potentials for this weekend, I think we are going to see a lot of strength from the Penske garage. Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano both have huge success here. Logano has 3 Nationwide wins with Keselowski being the Cup defending winner and the 2011 Nationwide winner as well. I really think that Logano is going to be the one to watch. With the exception of the Penske guys, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are going to be strong. Kenseth is really never one to count out. The only issue is that Toyota has cut the horsepower in their motors because of the failures from a few weeks ago. That being said, some of the teams running Toyota motors say that they have lost speed and some of their competitive edge because of that. We will have to wait and see the results this weekend. Here are your potential winners this weekend:
My Pick to Win: Joey Logano
Middle of the Road Pick: Martin Truex Jr.
Dark Horse: Austin Dillon
There are just so many potential winner this weekend especially since we don’t know how well these guys typically run at such a new track. Clint Bowyer is going to be another good one to watch as is Kurt Busch. Those guys are going to be competitive without a doubt. It’s really going to be a tough race to call. I am going based on Nationwide history and potential team strengths. Logano has been trying to get back to the front and he’s got the potential to do it this weekend.
The points did shift around quite a bit after last weekend. Here’s a look at your top 12 after Sonoma.
1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Carl Edwards
3. Clint Bowyer
4. Kevin Harvick
5. Matt Kenseth
6. Greg Biffle
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
8. Kyle Busch
9. Brad Keselowski
10. Martin Truex Jr.
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Paul Menard
The most notable changes came outside the top 12 with Tony Stewart dropping 5 positions to 15th and Jeff Gordon making strides moving up 3 spots to 13th position. Truex Jr. climbed 3 spots to get back inside the top 12. He should be able to gain more points this weekend. I think that Gordon will find his way back inside the top 12 as well after Kentucky. Stewart is going to have some work to do. Sonoma should’ve been a strong track for him, but his wreck with Jeff Burton really ruined his day and took away a substantial amount of gains that he’s been able to make. Regardless, stay tuned to watch an exciting Saturday night race as we head into a Cup track that only has 2 seasons under its belt! It’s going to be a wild ride!