Race: Quaker State 400
Date: Saturday July 11, 2015
Track: Kentucky Speedway
Time: 7:30 pm ET
TV: NBC Sports Network
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
WOW! What a finish at Daytona!! As predicted, Jr. took the checkers after holding off both Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps. The green-white-checker finishes seem to really bring on the competition at Daytona, and Sunday night was no disappointment. After Jr. crossed the line, Austin Dillon was 3 wide on the inside and got loose, causing his car to flip into the air, cross over the 2 outside lines of traffic and land on the catch fence. It was pretty incredible as his car came to a rest on the infield with the motor completely removed and several yards from the remains. The race was spectacular despite a several hours-long rain delay.
We are headed to another night race, this time Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. This place gives us a lot of good action as well. It’s an intermediate track with a bit of short-track mentality. There haven’t been but a handful of Sprint Cup races here, and it’s always interesting to see how the drivers handle the track. It’s pretty obvious that the veteran drivers will have enormous success, with several of them never finishing outside of the top 10 since we started racing here a couple of years ago.
There are several factors that play into the hands of the veterans. This type of track takes a lot of skill because of its makeup. Kentucky is a 1.5-mile asphalt oval with 14 degree banking in the turns, 8-10 degree variable banking through the tri-oval, and 4 degree banking on the straights. Overall, the banking is relatively minimal. It is just enough to add to the down-force necessary to be competitive and also to create some tire issues as a result. That is one thing that this place is known for. Kentucky can eat tires up. Drivers need to be mindful of tire wear and will have to be strategic in choosing 2 versus 4 tires.
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With those factors in mind, there are several good picks this week. Overall, I think that the Hendrick drivers are going to be hard to beat. We had Jr. pull out a win with a very strong ride at Daytona followed by Jimmie Johnson taking second. Gordon was running top 3 as well until the very end. Not only is Gordon coming in with good momentum, but he’s never won a Kentucky race. That’s been a goal of his before retirement. You better believe that the entire Hendrick team is going to try and get Gordon a win on Saturday night. That would also secure a spot in the Chase. As awesome as that would be, I think that we are actually going to see Johnson take the win, though. He’s got a lot going for him and has an awesome record at intermediate tracks. He’s going to be the one to beat. Here’s the rundown of your potential winners for Kentucky:
My Pick to Win: Jimmie Johnson
Middle of the Road Pick: Kurt Busch
Dark Horse Prediction: David Ragan
I qualify Busch as a middle of the road driver because of his lack of history with this team and also his lack of consistency. It’s no surprise that he will do well given he stays out of trouble. David Ragan seems to be picking up the ropes a bit. I was impressed with his run at Daytona despite his bad luck. I think that he’s clearly the best choice for our C list type drivers this week. Overall, though, we need to look out for other big names like Harvick and little brother Kyle Busch to try to get to the front of the pack as well. Busch still has some ground to make up to ensure his spot in the Chase. Let’s take a look at how the points are shaping up after Daytona.
Here are your current top 16 after last week’s race:
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Joey Logano
5. Martin Truex Jr.
6. Jamie McMurray
7. Brad Keselowski
8. Kurt Busch
9. Matt Kenseth
10. Jeff Gordon
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Denny Hamlin
13. Paul Menard
14. Ryan Newman
15. Clint Bowyer
16. Aric Almirola
Jr. is inching closer and closer to Harvick as the weeks march on. He gained 3 positions this weekend after his win at Daytona. Martin Truex Jr. seems to have hit a rough patch lately, having a good run of bad luck. With his skills on intermediate tracks, hopefully, he can regain some momentum and come out with a strong finish this weekend. Stay tuned for another awesome night race as we head to Kentucky Speedway this Saturday! Take advantage of more free cash by getting a 100% bonus up to $500 at GTBets!