Race: Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts
Date: Saturday June 28, 2014
Track: Kentucky Speedway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Jeff Gordon came close, but he fell short of Carl Edwards, who took home his first road course victory on Sunday at Sonoma. Given another lap or two, I believe Gordon would’ve caught him. This weekend, we are going back to the roots of oval tracks at Kentucky Speedway.
Saturday night is going to bring us fans some good racing. This is a track that usually has some pretty good action. There is a good amount of speed around the turns, and with a flat track like this one, I do believe we are going to see some sliding around and through the grass. It seems like this place lends itself to spontaneous spin-outs because of its characteristic flat style. Because of that, this is one of the rare intermediate tracks where tempers can become an issue. Night races always seem to add to that drama as well.
Simply because of the nature of this track, a lot of down-force is necessary keep the cars in line and on the track. There are clearly a few teams and drivers who have that skill covered. Namely, Penske and Hendrick (along with Hendrick-based teams) are going to be strong at places like this. There have only been 3 Sprint Cup Series races here, each with a different winner. As of right now, down-force has been the biggest issue. Like other tracks where we see that challenge, tires are certainly part of the total package. With tires being a commodity, that means that pit strategies are going to be a commodity as well. I guess it’s not so much pit strategy at this point as it is pit skill. It seems that there are quite a few drivers who are struggling on pit road over very amateur mistakes. Those drivers include both Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. They are really going to have to clean up their acts to see victory lane this weekend.
The thing about it is that both of those drivers are strong contenders for the win here at Kentucky. Busch is a good night racer. He seems to have his A game on when the lights come out for whatever reason. This is also a track where his aggressive nature can come in handy. It requires drivers to really be on their toes and to stay focused throughout the race. It’s not one of those tracks where drivers really relax at any point. Other than Harvick and Busch, I think that we are going to have to watch Mr. Six-Time himself, Jimmie Johnson. He really gets around this place and has got some good momentum going. We also have to consider that he won the last two most recent intermediate tracks. That being said, though, I am still putting my money on Harvick. He seems very solid in terms of coming to the front. His cars have been strong and I think that his team is going to give him what he needs this weekend to pull it off after a few disappointing runs because of issues in the pits. Here are your potential winners this weekend as we head to Kentucky:
My Pick to Win: Kevin Harvick
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Prediction: Kyle Larson
Larson is a tough cookie. He’s got a lot of talent and has finished the majority of his races in the top 10 on these intermediate tracks. Although he’s never raced at Kentucky, I don’t believe that his performance will suffer. Edwards, while having a win, is my B list pick simply because of his lack of consistency throughout the season. He really needs to up his game in terms of running solidly week in and week out. With all of the different winners each week, one win may not qualify every driver for the Chase. He’s good at Kentucky, and he has a lot of ground to make up for the rest of the season.
Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Jimmie Johnson
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Brad Keselowski
6. Carl Edwards
7. Joey Logano
8. Ryan Newman
9. Kevin Harvick
10. Kyle Larson
11. Kyle Busch
12. Paul Menard
13. Denny Hamlin
14. Clint Bowyer
15. Greg Biffle
16. Kasey Kahne
We see that Hendrick driver Kasey Kahne had a successful 7th place finish at Sonoma. That bumped him 3 positions into 16th place. Ryan Newman also jumped 3 spots. Other than that, there was no movement in the points from 1st to 7th position. This weekend, I think that we will see a bit of movement, but nothing too crazy. Look for Harvick and Johnson to be your 2 front-runners with others like Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards looking for the lead as well. Stay tuned for an exciting night of racing at Kentucky Speedway!
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