If Joe Gibbs Racing is ever going to reach victory lane during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, it’s going to be this weekend at the Kentucky Speedway. In the six years that the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has been coming to the 1.5-mile track, JGR has won half of the races. Mix that with some stellar results overall for the team, and you can see that this is a track where they’re easy favorites at.
Outside of a 12th place run at Kentucky last year, Kyle Busch had a top 10 in his first five races there. His average finishing spot is 5.17. His Kentucky Speedway finishes are first, 10th, fifth, second, first and 12th respectively. Counter in his improvement on 1.5-mile tracks this season, and you have a reason to believe the No. 18 Toyota can reach victory lane for the first time all year in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN).
Busch, struggled on 1.5-mile tracks to start the year off with finishes of 16th, 22nd and 15th respectively. But, in the two races since, Busch has finished fifth and second respectively.
He’s led 100 or more laps in three of his six Kentucky starts, so if Busch isn’t on his game on Saturday night, we may need to start exploring whether he will win or not before the regular season ends. He does have four top fives and six top 10’s over his last eight starts on the season too.
Factor in his teammate Matt Kenseth too. He has an average finishing position of 5.17 at Kentucky. In fact, he’s finished inside the top 10 every year there. His finishes are sixth, seventh, first, fourth, fifth and eighth respectively. His 1.5-mile results this year have been good too with finishes of third, ninth, 16th, 12th and fourth respectively. For a driver needing a win in a bad way, this is his best chance to put his No. 20 Toyota into victory lane.
But, don’t count out Denny Hamlin and his No. 11 Toyota. He has just two top 10’s in six Kentucky starts, but both were third place finishes in 2012 and again in 2015. He also has three top fives and four top 10’s over his last six starts entering this weekend as well. Plus, he has finishes of 38th, sixth, 25th, 11th and fifth respectively on 1.5-mile tracks in 2017.
Then there’s the fourth car driven by rookie Daniel Suarez. In XFINITY Series competition, Suarez had three top fives in four Kentucky tries. In Trucks, he finished fourth and 11th respectively there. On top of that, Carl Edwards finished fourth and second respectively the last two years in the No. 19 Toyota at Kentucky.
So, if there’s ever a time JGR is going to win, it’s this weekend.
But, they have yet to win this season though. Counter that with them reaching victory lane seven times by this point last year, all seven occurring in the first 12 races, and there’s reason to believe a win may not be coming their way. Since they won at Dover on May 15 of 2016, they’ve won just five total times in the 41 races since.
Something has to give, if they don’t win Saturday night, it’s a legit question to ask if they will before the regular season even ends.