It’s back to a 1.5-mile track this weekend as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visits the Kentucky Speedway for the ninth time. While the win for Saturday night’s race has to go through Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch or Brad Keselowski, what if they don’t win? I know it’s hard to ask that question of the Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway when they’ve literally won in all but one year on the 1.5-mile track, but in the event that they don’t reach victory lane, who does?
I wouldn’t look much further than one of their teammates in the Joe Gibbs Racing or Team Penske camps. I mean, combined, they’ve won every year. JGR and Penske have each scored three wins a piece. The only other team to have won was Furniture Row Racing with Truex in each of the last two years but that team has since folded a bunch of those members are with JGR now as that was a satellite team anyways.
Plus, JGR and Penske have combined to win on all but one 1.5-mile track this season.
I mean Busch has two wins in eight tries including a top 10 in all but one start at Kentucky. He also boasts five top five finish in his last six tries on the race track.
Truex, has won this race in each of the last two years to go along with not only leading a combined 326 laps since 2017, he won each stage in both races too.
Keselowski, has three wins to his credit and has four top six finishes in his last five Kentucky tries too. That makes these three drivers the favorites.
Denny Hamlin has two top four finishes in his last four Kentucky starts. Erik Jones finished sixth as a rookie in 2017 and seventh last year in a pole winning effort in his No. 20 Toyota. Jones, five top eight finishes in his last eight starts on the season too.
What about Penske?
Joey Logano has been so strong at Kentucky since joining Team Penske. He has five top 10 finishes in six tries including a 10th place effort last year. He also has four top seven finishes in his last six starts on the year and eight in the last 11.
Ryan Blaney could be a factor too. He was 10th in 2017 and runner-up last year. That’s right, Penske went 2-3-10 in 2018 to go along with having all three cars in the top six of the finishing order two weeks ago on another 1.5-mile track in Chicagoland.
So, if you asked me, these are the teams to beat, especially when their top rivals have struggled.
Chase Elliott has one top 10 finish in three tries with a third place run in 2017. He was 13th last year. William Byron finished 20th last year. Alex Bowman was 39th. Jimmie Johnson has one top five finish in eight tries including his last three finishes being 32nd, 40th and 14th respectively.
Their true test will be how much does Chicagoland transfer over? HMS has typically struggled at Kentucky but they were so good in Chicago, a similar 1.5-mile track. Does that success bode well for Saturday night?
They had two cars in the top three in the final finishing order of the rain shortened Coke Zero Sugar 400 in Daytona.
Stewart-Haas Racing struggled other than Kevin Harvick in Chicago and has typically struggled at Kentucky too.
Harvick, led a race-high laps at Chicago but finished 14th after getting into the wall. He did finish fifth in last year’s race at Kentucky and enters with six straight top 10 finishes but his fifth place run is also his only top five in eight career tries on the 1.5-mile track too. He hasn’t scored a top five in the last seven races run on the season either and has a best finish of fourth overall in 2019.
Aric Almirola has one top 10 finish in his career at Kentucky as that came last year with an eighth place result. It’s been 14 races since he last scored a top five on the season as well.
Clint Bowyer has one top 10 as that came via a third place run in 2013. His finishes with SHR as 13th and 12th respectively.
Then there’s Daniel Suarez who has finishes of 18th and 15th respectively at Kentucky.
With all that being said, it adds up to a JGR/Penske show again on Saturday night.