NASCAR Cup Race Preview: Quaker State 400 at Kentucky

4 cupNASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart
The Place: Kentucky Speedway
The Date: Sunday, July 12
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)
2019 Race Winner: Kurt Busch

NASCAR Cup Series News and Notes:

Next Up: Kentucky Speedway

Up next on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart this Sunday, July 12, at 4 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

This weekend’s event will mark the 10th time the NASCAR Cup Series has competed at Kentucky Speedway, dating back to the inaugural race on July 9, 2011 – the race was won by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch.

The nine previous series races at Kentucky have produced six different pole winners – Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez – and five different race winners led by Brad Keselowski with three wins (2012, 2014, 2016); followed by Kyle Busch with two (2011, 2015), Martin Truex Jr. with two (2017, 2018), Matt Kenseth (2013) and Kurt Busch (2019) each have one.

Daniel Suarez became the youngest series pole winner at Kentucky Speedway last season (07/13/2019) at the age of- 27 years, 6 months, 6 days. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is oldest series pole winner at Kentucky (06/30/2013 – 38 years, 8 months, 20 days).

With Kyle Busch’s win in the inaugural series event at Kentucky (07/09/2011), he became the youngest series driver to win at Kentucky at the age of 26 years, 2 months, 7 days. Matt Kenseth holds the record for the oldest driver to win at Kentucky with his 2013 victory at the age of 41 years, 3 months, 20 days.

In total four different organizations have visited Victory Lane at Kentucky Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series; led by Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing, who are tied for the series-most wins at Kentucky Speedway with three each. Furniture Row Racing also has two wins and Chip Ganassi Racing got their first win last season at Kentucky with driver Kurt Busch.

Happy Harvick is running away from the competition

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick is off to strong start in 2020. Not only does the veteran lead the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings by 85 points over second place Chase Elliott, but he also is now tied with Denny Hamlin for the series-most wins this year with four victories each. Harvick has held the top spot in the points since Phoenix back in March.

Harvick’s four wins this season are just the tip of his dominance this year, he also has collected 22 Playoff points, put up two stage wins and the series-most top fives (nine) and top 10s (13). Plus, he has led the series-most laps this season (640 laps led, 14.81% of his laps completed).

Kentucky Speedway and the Charlotte ROVAL are the only two tracks on the active schedule Harvick has yet to win at. In nine starts at Kentucky he has posted one top five, six top 10s and an average finish of 10.8. He finished 22nd in this event last season.

Hamlin on the rebound after Indy

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is looking to rebound this weekend at Kentucky Speedway, after leading late in the race last Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway only to lose the lead with late-race tire trouble that sent his No. 11 Toyota into the Turn 1 wall.

Hamlin is now fifth in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 109 point behind Harvick in the standings lead despite being tied with him for the series-most wins this season with four each.

This season, Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart have been clicking on all cylinders, in 16 starts they have produced four wins, four stage wins, nine top fives and 10 top 10s. His average finish this season is 10.2 and leads the series in Playoff points with 23.

Kentucky has been pretty good to Hamlin in the past. He has made nine series starts at the 1.5-mile facility, posting four top fives and an average finish of 14.9.

Kyle Busch looks to snap 2020 winless streak

Surprisingly, the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion, Kyle Busch, is still winless through the first 16 races of the 2020 season. Busch has won at least one race per season since competing fulltime in the NASCAR Cup Series back in 2005.

This season the Las Vegas native, Busch, is 10th in the series driver standings, having posted seven top fives and nine top 10s; including three runner-up finishes.

But Busch has been so good at Kentucky Speedway, this weekend could be when he gets his first checkered flag of the year. In nine series starts at Kentucky, he has posted two wins, seven top fives and eight top 10s. He finished runner-up to his brother Kurt in this event last season.

And to boot, he leads the series in average finish at Kentucky with a 4.7.

Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing have found success at Kentucky

Of the nine NASCAR Cup Series races held at Kentucky Speedway, the majority of them (six) have been won by two organizations – Team Penske (three wins) and Joe Gibbs Racing (three wins). This weekend both organizations will look to get their fourth victory at the 1.5-mile track and take the series lead in owner wins at the facility.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s three wins began with the inaugural series event in 2011; when Kyle Busch started from the first position due to qualifying being cancelled and then won. Then in 2013, veteran Matt Kenseth brought JGR their second victory from Kentucky and Busch again visited Victory Lane in 2015.

All four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have run well at Kentucky in the past. In nine starts, Busch has amassed two wins, seven top fives and eight top 10s. Martin Truex Jr. has also made nine starts, posting two wins (in 2017 and 2018 with Furniture Row Racing), two top fives and five top 10s. Denny Hamlin has made nine starts at Kentucky, putting up four top fives and an average finish of 14.8. And Erik Jones has made three series starts at Kentucky posting one top five and three top 10s. He also the series second best average finish (5.3) at Kentucky; behind only his teammate Kyle Busch.

In last season’s race, Busch finished runner-up, Jones was third, Hamlin was fifth and Truex finished 19th.

Team Penske’s three wins at Kentucky have all come from Brad Keselowski; who leads the series in victories at the track (2011, 2014, 2016). In total, Keselowski has made nine starts at Kentucky posting one pole, three wins, four top fives and six top 10s. His average finish 12.3.

Though Keselowski’s teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have yet to win at Kentucky in the NASCAR Cup Series they have found success at the track in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Logano winning three times and Blaney taking home the checkered flag twice. In the Cup Series Logano has made nine starts at Kentucky posting two top fives and six top 10s. Blaney has made four series starts at Kentucky posting one top five and two top 10s. In last season’s race Team Penske drivers finished seventh (Logano), 13th (Blaney) and 20th (Keselowski).

Jimmie Johnson returns to racing

Hendrick Motorsports driver and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson will return to competition this weekend at Kentucky Speedway after being sidelined last weekend due to testing positive for COVID-19.

Per NASCAR rules, a competitor that tests positive for COVID-19 must be able to provide two negative tests 24 hours apart from each other to be granted access to return to racing. It was announced on Wednesday morning that Johnson medically cleared to return to NASCAR competition. He has also been granted a Playoff eligible waiver.

Johnson is currently 15th in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 30 points up on 16th place Austin Dillon, and 36 points up on Erik Jones in 17th – the first spot outside the Playoff cutoff.

Kentucky Speedway is one of just four tracks (Charlotte ROVAL, Chicago and Watkins Glen) on the schedule Johnson has yet to win at yet. He has made nine starts at Kentucky, posting one pole, one top five and five top 10s. He finished 30th in this event last season.

Kurt Busch returns to defend last season’s Kentucky win

Heading into Kentucky Speedway last season, Kurt Busch was still working out the kinks with his new team at Chip Ganassi Racing and was riding a 30-race winless streak that dated back to Bristol in 2018, but all that changed when he grabbed the lead in overtime and took the win. Now the Las Vegas native returns looking to defend his Kentucky win from last season and snap an even longer winless streak that has reached 33 races.

Busch is currently 11th in points, four points behind his brother Kyle in 10th. In 16 starts this season Kurt Busch has collected three top fives, nine top 10s and a pole.

Busch’s win last season was not only first victory for Chip Ganassi Racing at Kentucky Speedway but also the first for Chevrolet. In nine starts at Kentucky, Busch has put up one win (2019), two top fives and six top 10s.

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