SPARTA, KY – Passing at the Kentucky Speedway has always been difficult. That’s not a surprising fact. With the two most recent repaves, track position has made more of a difference in determining a winner than all out speed. Take last night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race as a prime example. Ben Rhodes didn’t take any tires on his final pit stop and he held off Stewart Friesen who did elect to take tires.
Kyle Busch told me on Friday, track position here still rings key and that clean air is more beneficial on the 1.5-mile track than rubber that hits the road.
Well, with knowing that, it’s going to be even harder to finish in the top five for Saturday’s Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Yes, it’s going to be harder for the reason above, track position is key. Four of the seven race winners came from the front row including three of the last four years. Six of the seven winners have started in the top 10. Well, what happens when the most dominate drivers at this track as well as the season are all coming from a top 10 starting spot?
Four different drivers have won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in Kentucky. Three of those four will start in the top five. Martin Truex Jr. led 152 laps last year and will start on the pole. Brad Keselowski has led 483 laps and is a three-time Kentucky winner. He will roll his No. 2 Ford off fourth. Busch has completed literally every lap contested here and has led a series high 549 laps overall in Kentucky. The two-time winner led 112 laps last year and will roll off fifth.
Good luck getting by them.
But, combine what Truex, Busch, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer have done over the last calendar year, and you get a tough group to get into. Oh by the way, Harvick starts third while Bowyer will roll off eighth.
Truex, Busch and Harvick have combined to win the last 12 races on 1.5-mile tracks including all of them in 2018. This year in general, they’ve won 13 of the 15 races contested away from restrictor plate tracks.
On 1.5-mile tracks this season, Busch has three wins (Texas, Charlotte, Chicago), a runner-up (Las Vegas), a seventh place finish (Atlanta) and 10th place effort (Kansas). Truex, has two runner-ups (Kansas, Charlotte), two fourth’s (Las Vegas, Chicago) and a fifth place run (Atlanta). Harvick, while not ever scoring a top five finish in Kentucky, like Busch has three wins on 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta, Las Vegas, Kansas), a runner-up (Texas) and a third place run (Chicago) to his credit.
Now, to go to an even broader scale, lets go back to the last 40 Cup races. Those three with the addition of Kyle Larson and Bowyer have won 31 of them. Take out the five restrictor plate races and they’ve won 31 of 35 (89%). The only drivers to win a non plate race since last June in the Cup Series was Denny Hamlin (Darlington, New Hampshire), Kasey Kahne (Indianapolis) and Matt Kenseth (Phoenix). All those were won in 2017.
We can even go to the last 33 races, Busch has won nine times, Truex eight, Harvick six and Larson and Bowyer two times a piece. That’s 27 of 33 (82%). Again, take out the plate races, they’re 27-for-29 (93%).
Erik Jones won last weekend’s race in Daytona and starts second.
So, would you want to bet on someone other than these drivers on Saturday night?