Saturday, June 30, 2012

Keselowski Wins at Kentucky, His Third Win of 2012

Keselowski passes Junior at Kentucky en route to third 2012 win (Getty)
USA TODAY

Brad Keselowski became the first Sprint Cup driver with three wins this season, taking the lead on a final pit stop and pulling away for a victory in Saturday night's Quaker State 400.

Brad Keselowski became the first driver to pick up three wins in 2012.

Keselowski ran out of fuel as he pitted on lap 209 of 267 at Kentucky Speedway, but used the stop to his advantage and coaxed enough fuel out of his No. 2 Dodge the rest of the way to take the checkered flag.

"What a weekend," Keselowski beamed from victory lane. "For those that didn't see practice, we hit the wall on lap 1 of practice and brought out a backup car. This is my Martinsville car from the Chase last year, so this ain't the newest car we got but it sure runs."

Kasey Kahne, who fell two laps down at one point, used an incredible late charge to finish second. Denny Hamlin finished third and was followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon.

"We passed a ton of cars but came up a little short," Kahne said.

Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., A.J. Allmendinger and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10.

Quaker State 400 Results

Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, 'Tebows' in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday in Sparta, Ky. (Getty)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Final 2012 Kentucky Quaker State 400 Driver Ratings Following All Practices


Micah Roberts’ Top 10 Driver Ratings
Quaker State 400
Kentucky Speedway
Saturday, June 30, 2012 -  4:46 pm (PDT)

Rating    Driver     Odds          Practice 1    Practice 2   Qualified    Kansas*

 1. Jimmie Johnson 5/1               3rd            12th             1st             3rd  
Strong average times in practice coupled with current 2012 form make him driver to beat.
 2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 12/1          2nd             7th              7th            7th 
Had top practice 2 speeds among drivers in race trim; quick average; using Charlotte chassis.
 3. Denny Hamlin 10/1                 7th             8th              3rd             1st 
Best 10-consecutive lap average in practice and has win on similar track at Kansas in April.
 4. Kyle Busch 7/1                        1st             9th              2nd           10th
Won Inaugural Kentucky race last season; was almost as good off the hauler in practice as 2011.
 5. Brad Keselowski 15/1            12th            2nd              8th            11th 
Top average speeds in practice 2; wrecked primary car in practice 1 after altercation with No. 42.
 6. Greg Biffle 8/1                        20th            3rd             11th            5th 
One of the top performing drivers on all 1.5-mile tracks this season; using All-Star race chassis.
 7. Martin Truex Jr. 25/1               5th            26th            10th           2nd 
Should be able to transfer April Kansas information that saw him lead 173 of 267 laps.
 8. Jeff Gordon 12/1                    16th            1st               9th           21st 
Third best 10-consecutive lap average in practice; found lots of speed as practice came to close.
 9. Kevin Harvick 12/1                  8th            21st              4th            6th 
Good average practice speeds; using chassis that Brendan Gaughan drove as No. 33 in Vegas.
10. Tony Stewart  8/1                  24th           31st            22nd          13th 
Not one of his best practices, but is using chassis that won Chicagoland and Las Vegas.

* Results from the April 22, 2012 race held at Kansas Speedway. The Kansas and Kentucky facilities both have 1.5-mile tracks with similar banking that mirror a few of the same traits.

Odds courtesy of the LVH Super Book.

Micah Roberts, a former sports book director, has been setting NASCAR lines in Las Vegas since 1995. For more Roberts insights and post-practice analysis on the race, go to VegasInsider.com or follow on Twitter: MicahRoberts7. 


Betting Notes
Jimmie Johnson looks like he’s going to be tough to beat, but despite looking strong in a few other practices throughout the season, Johnson has also been content with getting top-5 finishes. He’s not a guy you want to mess around with in driver matchups despite the large juicy prices offered to bet against him. Look for a top-3 finish out of him this week.

So who might be the drivers that finish 1-2?

Jimmie Johnson is going to be tough to beat starting from the pole (Getty)
My best guess after watching practices would be Dale Earnhardt Jr, Denny Hamlin or Kyle Busch, all of whom looked outstanding in all the categories we look for out of practice. Kyle Busch looked fast right off the hauler just like he did last season when he went on to win the inaugural Kentucky race. But the engine troubles that have plagued Busch still count as major negative.

Because of Denny Hamlin’s affiliation with Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing, there also has to be a concern about his engine faltering, but his 10-consecutive average lap times make him hard to resist.

Junior’s swagger in the garage today was nothing like we have seen out of him while driving a Hendrick car. He knows he's fast and knows that every driver in the garage knows he's fast. The big difference between now and a few weeks ago is that they all know he can turn good practices into a win like he did at Michigan. He would is my top selection to win after everything that happened during Friday’s practice sessions.

The top long shot to consider would be Martin Truex Jr., and he might have odds better than 25-to-1 just because he wasn’t impressive at in final practice. He may not have the dominant type of car like in Kansas, but we do know they do have speed tucked away somewhere and we also have seen MWR drivers run well at places like Chicagoland and Kansas that are similar to Kentucky.

Brad Keselowski is also a driver that presents some larger odds that should be able to contend Saturday night. It was pretty impressive how quick they were able to get their back-up car dialed in the final practice after getting only a couple laps in the first session. Juan Pablo Montoya and Keselowski got tangled up in practice and neither was too happy about the incident, especially Keselowski who tried to retaliate. Despite a stern warning from NASCAR, we probably haven’t seen the last of the flare-ups between these two.

Tony Stewart presents great value in matchups again even though he looked awful in practice.            


Quaker State 400 Practice Notes


Driver Post-Qualifying Quotes

JEFF GORDON ON BEING HAPPY WITH HIS CAR IN RACE TRIM DURING PRACTICE: “I was very happy in race trim. That’s where I thought our car really shined. We just kept making improvements on it each time we went out. It just worked for us to get a pretty good starting position; we’ll see where this ends up. Hopefully it does that for us and we can show what we’ve got for the race.”

KYLE BUSCH ON HOW TRACK CONDITIONS CHANGED WHEN IT GOT COOLER FOR QUALIFYING: “The track conditions changed tremendously. Just a lot more grip out there from where we were in practice. Obviously, being 140-something degree track temps during practice you’re slipping and sliding and it’s really slick. And then towards the end of qualifying track temp was probably 100 to 105 — something like that. So in that 35 to 40 degree range is definitely a lot faster and you saw it in the speeds you saw it in the cars seeming to stick a lot better than what they were in practice and what our balance was during my qualifying run.”

DENNY HAMLIN ON HOW HE FEELS ABOUT SATURDAY'S RACE: “Yeah. I do. I think it’s been good. In qualifying trim we weren’t all that great. I think our teammates were a little bit better. I feel like in race trim we, for sure, had a car that was capable of running in the top-three or four.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR ON HOW TEMPERATURES WILL AFFECT THE RACE: “Just lack of grip and trying to get the car dialed in. There’s nothing we can do about the temperatures. It’s all about us trying to make the car do what we want it to and be better than the other 42 out there. We’ve got some work to do for tomorrow, like I said. It was off a little in race trim. These guys have done a good job all year and I’m sure we’ll get it fixed tonight.” 

Kentucky Practice Notes: Gordon Fastest in Happy Hour, Earnhardt Jr. Impresses

by Micah Roberts

Dale Earnhardt Jr and Jimmie Johnson talk during practice (Getty)  
Jeff Gordon used a mock-qualifying set-up in the final 15 minutes to put down the fastest lap during Friday’s final practice session in preparation for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Gordon’s fast lap of 175.097 mph was the cherry on top of the day for the No. 24 team that had progressively found faster speeds between the two practice sessions run on the day. Gordon was 16th fastest in the early session running eight laps while running 40 laps in the final session.

Several teams switched over to a qualifying run late in the final session like Gordon did, but one driver never changed over from a race set-up, and he was almost as fast as the leaders.

Dale Earnhardt Jr only had the seventh fastest practice lap (173.144), but didn’t run any qualifying laps like the six drivers faster than him. He ran 57 laps for a 170.924 mph average and looks like he‘s going to be one of the three drivers to beat Saturday night.

Despite not seeing any confirmation on how many other drivers ran mostly race set-ups like Junior throughout the final session, based on laps run, it’s kind of easy to figure out. Kyle Busch ran the most laps (67) followed by Jimmie Johnson (58), Earnhardt Jr. (57) and Denny Hamlin (56).

Hamlin had the fastest 10-consecutive lap average of the session while finishing with the eighth fastest individual lap. Busch was fast for the entire practice with the fifth fastest 10-consecutive lap average.

Only 13 drivers ran at least 10-consecutive laps with Johnson and Gordon being second and third best respectively. Earnhardt Jr. did not run that many laps consecutively to rank on the list.

Brad Keselowski had the second fastest lap of 90-minute session, capturing it late in practice. Keselowski was forced to a back-up car in the first practice after an altercation with Juan Montoya ended up sending the No. 2 car into the wall.

19 minutes into the final practice session, Keselowski found Montoya on the track and repeatedly bumped him from behind forcing NASCAR officials to momentarily red flag practice and call the two drivers into the garage where they were warned to cool their jets. This story should make an interesting side-note to watch for on Saturday night.

Keselowski ran 40 laps for the highest average (170.943) among all drivers that attempted at least 30 laps which should make him a driver to take serious notice of on Saturday. Hamlin won on the similar track on Kansas earlier this year and has to be considered one of the favorites, as does his teammate Kyle Busch, but Junior has the top look of a winner this week.

The No. 88 team may have lost momentum from their Michigan win with a poor finish at Sonoma, but there is no denying that their team is equal -- if not better -- to the No. 48 team right now. There is a focus with Earnhardt Jr right now that we may have never seen in his career. He's having fun, the team is a groove producing great cars, and most of all, he's very fast.

I had high expectations on the MWR drivers coming into this week, but neither Clint Bowyer or Martin Truex Jr. followed up their top-5 practice runs from the first session with times to be excited about in their final chance to tweak race set-ups. Truex Jr. finished 26th fastest followed by Bowyer in 27th. 

In no way should either driver be discounted to run well in the race because we don’t know exactly what the team was trying to use the session for. It would be hard to imagine two of the fastest cars from the early session tucked away in the bottom half of the final session simply because they couldn’t find maximum speed. My gut tells me they were running their own agenda, searching for something other teams weren't.

Tonight’s qualifying should tell a little bit of the story. Many of the driver quotes from the week regarding Kentucky talked about starting up front being the key because it’s a one-groove track that’s hard to pass on.

Results justify their comments as eight of the top-10 finishers at Kentucky last season started in the first seven rows, including the winner -- Kyle Busch, who started from the pole.

So the point is, If Truex Jr and Bowyer can qualify well as their first practice indicated, they may still be in good shape to run well on race day/night despite their final practice speeds.

Top-5 Kentucky Practice 2 (Final) Speeds:
1) Jeff Gordon 175.097
2) Brad Keselowski 174.633
3) Greg Biffle 173.958
4) AJ Allmendinger 173.572
5) Carl Edwards 173.494

Kentucky Practice 2 Speeds

Johnson on Pole at Kentucky - Starting Lineup



Kyle Busch Fastest, Again, in First Practice Session

By Micah Roberts

Kentucky Reign: Kyle Busch fast at Sparta again in practice (Getty) 
Kyle Busch laid down the fastest lap in Friday’s first practice session as 45 drivers prepare to qualify for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Busch topping the charts with a fast lap of 177.801 mph should come as no surprise, since he not only won the Inaugural Kentucky race last season, but was also fastest in two of the three practice sessions prior to winning.

There are only two practice sessions for this years race before qualifying begins later today at 5:10 pm (ET). The final practice session is schedule for 1:30 pm.

Dale Earnhardt Jr had the second fastest lap (176.817) of the 60-minute session, which in the process bumped teammate Jimmie Johnson to third fastest (176.540). Johnson was second fastest in a mock-qualifying run for exactly 30 seconds as Junior was right behind him.

Both Hendrick chassis’ should be fast this week based on recent past history. Each of the cars ran in the Coca-Cola 600 and finished 11th or better (Junior 6th). Earnhardt Jr’s car won the Sprint Shootout prior to the All-Star race and Johnson’s got a runner-up finish at Texas in April.  

Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-5 fastest in practice. MWR Racing and Bowyer come fresh off a win at Sonoma while Truex Jr. looks to be able to use his set-up information from the similar track of Kansas, a place where he led 173 of the 267 laps before settling for a runner-up finish. Friday is also Truex Jr's birthday, and no better present would better capturing his first win since 2007 on Sunday.

MWR should also have reason to be optimistic this year because David Reutimann finished second to Busch last season at Kentucky. If looking at similar tracks, Reutimann fared very well on these flatter 1.5-mile tracks that included a 2010 win at Chicagoland.

Their boss, Michael Waltrip, is participating this week because the race is in his home state. Waltrip took the No. 55 UK Wildcat themed Toyota to only the 27th fastest lap. Mark Martin and Brian Vickers have been fast weekly in that car, so the only reason for being slow thus far has to rest with the uneasiness of Waltrip getting back into the car.

The drivers put their fastest qualifying set-up on the track -- with no sandbagging, because it figures to be very cool at the latest juncture and the speeds from this first session will be used to determine qualifying order. The fastest in early practice goes out last, which should produce the highest speeds of the day.

The talk around the garages was how slick the track was.

Juan Montoya and Brad Keselowski smacked each other early in practice sending Keselowski into the wall. Keselowski got his back-up car off the hauler and was able to run a few laps just before the session ended.

No driver ran 10 consecutive laps during the session. Tony Stewart ran the most laps (21), but only had the 24th fastest lap.

Top-5 Kentucky Practice 1 Speeds:
1) Kyle Busch 177.801 mph
2) Dale Earnhardt Jr 176.817
3) Jimmie Johnson 176.540
4) Clint Bowyer 176.488
5) Martin Truex Jr. 176.327

Kentucky Practice 1 Speeds

Kentucky Average Practice 1 & 2 Speeds - NASCAR.com


Michael Waltrip to Run UK Wildcats Paint Scheme at Kentucky

Waltrip honoring his UK Wildcats NCAA Basketball Title this week 
CORNELIUS, N.C. – A famous author once said you can never go home again, but Michael Waltrip plans to do just that this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

And it won’t be anything low key.

The 49-year-old Owensboro, Ky. native will wear the blue and white of his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats. The two-time Daytona 500 champion will honor the 2012 NCAA basketball champions as he seeks his first Sprint Cup start in front of his home state fans.

Waltrip enjoys many roles in NASCAR. He’s a television commentator for Fox and SPEED-TV broadcasts, a part-time Sprint Cup driver and co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing that won last weekend’s race on the Sonoma road course with driver Clint Bowyer. All three MWR teams are in the top 12 in owner points.

WALTRIP ON UK: “I have been a UK (University of Kentucky) fan ever since I was a kid. I grew up in Owensboro watching UK basketball. They would always show it tape delayed after the 10:30 p.m. newscast. I was fortunate to go to several games in my life. Clint Bowyer and I even went to the national championship game in New Orleans when they beat Kansas. I will have to say, it’s really cool for a Kentucky guy to have UK on my car racing in Kentucky.”

PART-TIME SCHEDULE: My schedule is really cool. I get to race on the tracks that I love (Kentucky, Daytona, Talladega). Kentucky was one of the races that I really wanted on my schedule. I know my name is on the building but the No. 55 really belongs to Mark Martin. It’s was really nice of Mark to let me drive this race. We will go to Kentucky and get the best finish we can get. I am honored to have the UK logos on my Aaron’sToyota.

WALTRIP ON MWR: “I will never forget back in 2005 when I was driving for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and I thought life was great,Toyota came to me and said we are going Cup racing, why don’t you join us? I thought, well, that would be fun and give me something else to do. So, we started and golly it’s been so fun to have that relationship. Think about NAPA, they have been around since 2001 and Aaron’s since 2000. It’s because we are friends, we are buddies, that we do this together. Since 2005 with Toyota as well. Those type of partnerships and relationships are the only reason why I’m still in business today. It took us a while to get cars like we have now and the strategy and the philosophy to race the way we are now. I’m just eternally grateful Toyota gave us the time needed to be successful. To sit in Sonoma as winners of that event, and more than that, just contenders week-in-and-week-out is amazing. We are very grateful and very thankful team.”

NOTES:
· UK SOUVENIRS: UK fans can order special t-shirts and die cast replicas of Waltrip’s Kentucky car by visiting: www.nascar.com/aaronsgowildcats.
· CHASSIS- 722 – Brian Vickers finished fifth at Bristol in this chassis while Mark Martin finished 21st in the All-Star race in Charlotte. Backup - 708 – has not raced in 2012.
· CAREER: Saturday’s race at Kentucky Speedway marks Waltrip’s 768th career Sprint Cup start. He’s started 1,055 races in the Cup, Nationwide and truck series.
· MWR STATS: MWR’s Toyotas are seventh (Bowyer), ninth (Truex) and 12th (No. 55) in 2012 owner points. MWR and Roush Fenway Racing are the only teams with that many in the top 12. Bowyer and Truex are also seventh and ninth in driver points which would qualify each for a berth in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
· LEADING THE WAY: MWR’s Toyotas have led 620 laps in the first 16 Sprint Cup Series races this season. Truex leads the MWR charge with 318 laps led, followed by Brian Vickers with 125, Martin with 79, Bowyer with 77 and Waltrip with 21.
· NO. 55 IN 2012: Mark Martin will race the No. 55 in 24 Sprint Cup points races, Brian Vickers in eight and Waltrip in four races.
· POLES: The No. 55 has won three poles (Phoenix, Richmond & Dover) in 2012 with Mark Martin behind the wheel.

- Michael Waltrip Racing

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Quaker State 400 Kentucky Preview

Venue: Kentucky Speedway (1.5-mile tri-oval)
Event: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (Race 17 of 36) 
Earnhardt Jr. using chassis from All-Star race and Coca-Cola 600 (Getty)
Tune In: June 30 (6:30 p.m. ET on TNT and PRN. Check local listings.)

News & Notes

POINT STANDINGS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. ranks third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship standings after finishing 23rd last week at Sonoma, Calif. He trails leader Matt Kenseth by 14 points after the 16th race of the season.

LEAD LAP: According to NASCAR's loop data statistics, Earnhardt ranks second among drivers this season with percentage of laps run on the lead lap. The Kannapolis, N.C., native has spent 95.38 (4,540 of 4,760 laps) percent of laps on the lead lap this season. Earnhardt is also the only driver to have completed all 4,760 laps this season.

EARNHARDT AT KENTUCKY: On Saturday, Earnhardt will make his second career NASCAR start at Kentucky Speedway. During last year's inaugural Cup race at the 1.5-mile tri-oval, Earnhardt sustained a blown left-front tire late in the race that resulted in a 30th-place finish.

KENTUCKY CHASSIS: Crew chief Steve Letarte will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-668 for this weekend's Cup event at Kentucky. Earnhardt last raced this chassis to a sixth-place finish in the 600-mile event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Earnhardt also won the Sprint Showdown in this car during the Sprint All-Star race weekend in May.

INTERMEDIATE TRACK STATS: In 120 Sprint Cup starts on 1.5-mile tracks, Earnhardt has recorded four pole positions, three wins, 14 top-five finishes and 38 top-10s.

HENDRICK AT KENTUCKY: Hendrick Motorsports nabbed two top-10 finishes in the inaugural Cup event at Kentucky last year when Jimmie Johnson finished third and Jeff Gordon scored 10th. The 1.5-mile track joins Homestead-Miami Speedway as the only two venues on the Cup circuit where Hendrick Motorsports has yet to reach Victory Lane. When it comes to 1.5-mile racetracks, the organization has totaled 31 wins, 131 top-five finishes, 213 top-10s and 30 pole positions at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway, Homestead, Kansas Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.

Quotes

DALE EARNHARDT JR., DRIVER, NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET (ON KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY.): "Kentucky is kind of wide, but it's difficult to pass. The second groove has some good grip, so it will be real hard to get underneath guys and get around them. It's got a lot of bumps, too. I don't mind the bumps that bad; they definitely add a new dimension in the corners."

- Hendrick Motorsports

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012 Kentucky Quaker State 400: Truex Jr. Presents Great Value This Week

By Micah Roberts

Truex Jr was ultra-fast through entire Kansas race, one late glitch (Getty) 
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series makes their second visit to the Blue Grass State with Saturday night’s event at Kentucky Speedway, a 1.5-mile facility with 14 degrees of banking. Last season’s event won by Kyle Busch was filled with all kinds of pre-race anticipation, the only problem for fans was actually getting there. Thousands missed the race due to being stuck in traffic, a problem the track and state troopers vowed to have fixed this year.

Because there hasn’t been enough data accumulated at Kentucky to give us a good read on past history, we have to incorporate a few similar tracks like Kansas and Chicagoland, both of which have similar banking at the same distance.

In the April Kansas race, Denny Hamlin held on for the final 30 laps to get the victory, but it was Martin Truex Jr. who dominated the afternoon leading 173 of the 267 laps. Truex Jr. settled for runner-up and was followed by Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.

Truex Jr. thoroughly dominated the race until a late seven or eight lap sequence where Hamlin caught and passed him. I still don't know what happened that caused Truex Jr. to slow, because after that sequence he was running the same lap times as Hamlin, if not a little better until the end of the race.

In Johnson’s case, the No. 48 team hadn’t hit their full stride when Kansas came around, but they are on a full throttle boogie right now. Since winning at Darlington, Johnson has won the All-Star race, won at Dover and is on a streak of four straight top-five finishes.

Johnson describes a lap around Kansas as rough and bumpy and says it's kind of in its own league among the 1.5-mile tracks.

"It’s the roughest and fastest track we go to," Johnson explains. "Well, Atlanta is fast, but there are big swells and I still don’t feel like we’re driving as hard at Atlanta as we are at Kentucky. At Kentucky, you’re driving it like a freshly repaved track. You have high frequency bumps and banking doing weird things. It’s a fun track for those reasons and it has a lot of character to it.”

Kenseth and Biffle are sitting 1-2 in the standings and this type of track has been Roush-Fenway Racing’s bread and butter over the years. The duo finished in the top-5 at Kansas this year and have been fast on all 1.5-mile tracks this season with Biffle grabbing a Texas win.

It was announced earlier in the week that 2012 would be Kenseth's last season with RFR with Ricky Stenhouse taking over the No. 17 ride. This is a relationship few expected to ever see end because it was Jack Roush who nurtured the rising Kenseth to become a Cup Champion that is considered now one of the best drivers on the circuit.

But this is the process Roush has had with all his drivers. he brings them up while their young and willing to listen, gives them good cars and then watches them leave. It's happened with Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch and now Kenseth.

In relation to what Kenseth being a lame duck driver means for the upcoming races, we shouldn't expect to see Kenseth's performances be any less that it has been throughout this season. The team still has eyes on a Championship, a title that would still hang in the Roush rafters.

"I'm very thankful to Jack Roush for the opportunities he's given me over the past 14 years. Together we have enjoyed a lot of success," Kenseth tweeted on Tuesday. "And as a team we are committed as ever to the remainder of the 2012 season and chasing a 3rd sprint cup title for Jack and RFR. Although I have nothing to announce regarding 2013, I feel the timing of this announcement gives RFR ample time to get things lined up..."

Although Kenseth hasn't announced where he will be driving in 2013, it's thought that Joe Gibbs Racing will be his next stop in either the No. 20 currently driven by Joey Logano or else a fourth JGR car. Tony Stewart and Richard Childress will both likely be needing a driver for 2013 as well.

The Michael Waltrip Racing drivers come off their first win of the season on the road course at Sonoma and could make in two in a row this week because they have shown to have perhaps the most consistent power among all the Toyota’s despite getting the same information as the Joe Gibbs drivers.

The added incentive this week is that car owner Michael Waltrip is from Kentucky and would love to get a win in his home state. Waltrip will even be taking the wheel of the No. 55 car and try to get the win himself.

Clint Bowyer won last week, but look for Truex Jr. to be the star Saturday night. I like the angle of him doing well at Kansas this year as well as the No. 00 MWR car finishing runner-up at Kentucky last season.

Truex Jr. should have very attractive odds this week that make the play worth while despite not winning a race since 2007.

Some other drivers that have performed recently that should have good runs include Joey Logano and Tony Stewart.

Logano seems to be on the upswing with rumors swirling about his status for next season. No driver in NASCAR has the kind of resume Logano has at Kentucky that saw him win from the pole in three straight Nationwide races from 2008-10. With a Pocono win in his back pocket and assurance from Joe Gibbs that he'll be back, he could be a nice long shot to target this week.

Stewart has to be considered just because of the chassis he's using this week, a car that has two wins to its credit. Stewart took this car to a win at Chicagoland last year to start the Chase, and he also drove it to victory at Las Vegas this season.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #56 Martin Truex Jr (25/1)
2) #16 Greg Biffle (8/1)
3) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
4) #17 Matt Kenseth (10/1)
5) #18 Kyle Busch (10/1)



    Cool Picture of the Week
Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota, prepares to race 2012 Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey during a visit to the FedEx Express Hub in Anchorage, Alaska, on June 25, 2012. (Getty)

Driver Notes & Quotes for 2012 Quaker State 400 at Kentucky

Jimmie Johnson is on a roll heading into Kentucky (Getty) 
JIMMIE JOHNSON ON KENTUCKY: “Really, how rough the track is. My first laps there from the test session last year when we went, I felt like the bumps were going to make the car lose grip and spin out and be out of control. But there is so much grip there that, even with as rough and as bumpy as it is, you stand on the gas and carry a ton of speed and just bounce around. Those are the things I had to overcome when I got on the track last year.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 714 serves as the primary for Johnson at Kentucky. This car has raced twice in 2012, finishing 11th at Charlotte and runner-up at Texas. Chassis No. 669 serves as the backup.

DALE EARNHARDT JR CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew chief Steve Letarte will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 88-668 for this weekend's Cup event at Kentucky. Earnhardt last raced this chassis to a sixth-place finish in the 600-mile event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Earnhardt also won the Sprint Showdown in this car during the Sprint All-Star race weekend in May. 

TONY STEWART ON KENTUCKY: “I’m a Southern Indiana guy, so the track is not very far from where I grew up and where I currently live. It’s kind of a home track to us, and that’s kind of the feeling we have going into it. You always want to run well at your home tracks. Even though Indy has always been my home track in the past, now having Kentucky Speedway there, it’s as much home to me as Indy. We’re definitely looking forward to it. Plus, it’s an area that has deep racingroots. There’s a lot of dirt track racing roots around Kentucky.”

STEWART CHASSIS CHOICE: This car debuted in May 2011 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway where it enjoyed a solid outing, qualifying ninth and leading six laps before finishing seventh. It spent time in the wind tunnel afterward and made its second career start at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in June. There, it qualified 15th and moved its way into the top-five by lap 124, only to be felled two laps later when Stewart reported that he had lost third gear. The balky transmission prevented Stewart from getting up to speed quickly on restarts, which conspired to leave Chassis No. 14-640 in 21st place when the checkered flag dropped. The
car returned to Pocono in August where it rallied from its 28th-place starting spot and a flat left-front tire on lap 92 that at one point had Stewart a lap down to finish on the lead lap in 11th.

Chassis No. 14-640 broke through in the first race of the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland
Speedway in Joliet, Ill., when it started 26th and led four times for 35 laps en route to the win
. The car received a new body during the offseason and participated in a Goodyear Tire Test Feb. 7-8 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

Its first race of 2012 and fifth overall came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March, where Stewart drove from seventh to lead three times for a race-high 127 laps to score his first Sprint Cup win at Las VegasChassis No. 14-640 raced at Texas in April, but unlike its past performances at intermediate tracks, the car struggled, qualifying 29th and finishing two laps down in 24th. Numerous trips to the wind tunnel, along with a single-day test June 14 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, have the car better prepared for its seventh career start Saturday night at Kentucky.

JEFF BURTON CHASSIS CHOICE: will race Chassis No. 367 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 31 Chevrolet, originally built in 2011, has been utilized twice during the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season at Kansas Speedway in April (started-12th, finished-22nd) and in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May (started-22nd, finished-19th). This chassis has seen significant track time in 2011 including visits to Indianapolis Motor Speedway (started-13th, finished-35th), Atlanta Motor Speedway (started-27th, finished-13th) and Kansas (started-31st, finished-21st). Burton also tallied a top-10 finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway, finishing 10th after starting 31st with this Chevrolet.

KEVIN HARVICK CHASSIS CHOICE: Harvick will pilot Chassis No. 381 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable in this weekend’s Quaker State 400. Harvick drove this Chevrolet to a 13th-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in June of 2011. It was also driven earlier this season by Brendan Gaughan at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as a No. 33 RCR Sprint Cup Series entry.

PAUL MENARD CHASSIS CHOICE: Paul Menard will pilot Chassis No. 328 from the Richard Childress Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stable. This No. 27 Chevrolet was last utilized in competition at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May where Menard started ninth and finished 15th. This chassis was also used at Phoenix International Raceway in March.

MATT KENSETH ON KENTUCKY: “I’ve only raced at Kentucky once now and we ran pretty competitively there to finish well in last year’s race. My comfort level is high going into this weekend, but I’m just not as familiar with the track yet as a lot of the guys who have competed in Nationwide series races there in the past. I’m looking forward to going back to Kentucky this weekend because there were a lot of great fans in the area. There was a lot of great support from the region and I thought it was a great race last year, so I’m looking forward to another great weekend at Kentucky.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-741 (Last run at Charlotte)

GREG BIFFLE ON KENTUCKY: “Kentucky is a really fun, flat 1.5-mile track which creates lots of side-by-side racing. The sweeping corners, combined with the flat puts on a great race. Plus Saturday night racing under the lights is always exciting.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-803 Last ran All-Star – finished 22nd; Backup: RK-786 Last ran Homestead – finished 35th

CARL EDWARDS ON KENTUCKY: “Kentucky is pretty huge for us. It is a UPS race for us, our only UPS race this year, and it is right there near Best Buy’s Geek Squad headquarters so we are going to do some stuff there which will be fun. It is a big race for us. I had my first win in NASCAR there in the truck series in 2003. It is huge for me to be able to go back there and have the opportunity to run in the Cup Series and get a win there. We had one Nationwide win there as well and I really like that place. It has character and the fans are wound up so it’s a lot of fun.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: RK-811 Last outing: Charlotte in May – finished ninth; Texas in April – finished eighth

MARCOS AMBROSE CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 9 RPM team has prepared chassis No. 693 for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Kentucky Speedway. This Mac Tools Ford was run previously this season in the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

MARTIN TRUEX JR ON KENTUCKY: “Kentucky Speedway has been a mixed bag for me. It has really changed so much over the years. Last year, we didn’t really run very well there. In the past, I have had good runs there in a Nationwide car. I’ve had several top-fives so I’m not stressing over last year at all. With the way our teams have worked together and the way our Toyotas have been running, I look forward to the challenge. It’s a pretty neat track. It’s really fast. It’s crazy bumpy. It’s a huge challenge for everyone to get these cars around it. The key will be to keep the splitters off the ground.”

KYLE BUSCH ON KENTUCKY: “Last year, we were really fast at Kentucky with our M&M’s Camry. We unloaded really well and we were quick. We had that open test day there and we were fast. We were fastest in practice and then qualifying actually got rained out, so it gave us the automatic pole, but I still say we won the pole. It was a great race for us. We started up front, we led some laps and Kurt (Busch) led some laps. It was cool to battle with Kurt for a while. I remember Kurt was up there, (Brad) Keselowski was there, Jimmie Johnson got up there, and David Reutimann finished second there at the end. There were lot of good cars and a lot of really fast guys who we had to deal with and race hard with, and I’d expect the same this year, as well.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger team will racechassis PRS-822 during Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Keselowski last drove this chassis to an 11th-place finish at Kansas Speedway in April.

- FROM TEAM PRESS RELEASES

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jeff Gordon Puts Emphasis on Qualifying Well This Week at Kentucky

Jeff Gordon currently sits 18th in points heading to Kentucky (Getty)
SPARTA, Ky. (June 26, 2012) - The biggest obstacle for Jeff Gordon in the inaugural Kentucky Speedway event last year? Traffic.

“If you could have picked [the No. 24 car] up (from 20th-place in the running order) and placed it in the top seven or eight, we could have stayed there and maybe battled with the leaders,” said Gordon after last year’s event. “We just needed track position.”

Gordon finished 10th in that event, and the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger team will attempt to better that – and thecompetition – during Saturday night’s Quaker State 400.

“The track is very challenging,” said Gordon, who has gained four positions and moved up to 18th in theNASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings over the last two weekends. “It’s the same thing that makes it difficult to pass any race weekend – usually because it’s a one-groove race track.

“There are pretty severe bumps getting into turn three, so it’s hard to run side-by-side because you get really loose underneath somebody. And the pace is pretty fast – you carry good speed through the corners here.

“It’s just hard to get an edge on the competition.”

Since Gordon did not win the inaugural event, Kentucky Speedway joins Homestead-Miami Speedway as the only two tracks where Gordon has yet to visit Victory Lane. Kentucky is also one of four tracks where Gordon has yet to win a pole (Las Vegas, Kansas and Homestead-Miami being the others).

But while qualifying well would mean less traffic for Gordon at the start of the race, traffic outside the track is a major talking point heading into the weekend.

“[Traffic] certainly dominated the conversation on Twitter,” said Gordon. “I think (Speedway Motorsports, Inc., chairman) Bruton (Smith) and that group have a lot of pressure on them this year to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

“I don’t know if you can fix it all at once, but I feel confident that they are going to make some huge strides.

“I think it is going to be a much better experience for all of the fans.”

- Performance PR Plus

Stenhouse Takes Over Kenseth's No. 17 Cup Ride in 2013

Ricky Stenhouse has three Nationwide wins in 2012
Concord, N.C. (June 26, 2012) – Roush Fenway Racing announced today that 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will compete for the team full-time in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition beginning in 2013, while Matt Kenseth and Roush Fenway will part ways at the conclusion of the 2012 season.

“Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has more than proved his abilities on the race track,” said team co-owner Jack Roush. “We feel that he is not only a key piece of our team’s future, but a key piece of the future of the sport. Roush Fenway is an organization with a wonderful past and present, as well as an extremely promising future, and I can’t think of a better candidate than Ricky to usher in the next era of success for the team.

“Of course, I’d like to thank Matt Kenseth for his many years of loyal service,” added Roush. “Matt has been an integral part of this organization for well over a decade, and we are extremely appreciative of his accomplishments and contributions to the team, and will always consider him a part of the Roush Fenway family.

“We’re fortunate that we were able to tap into Matt’s potential and bring him on board many years ago, and I’m proud that together we were able to combine the tools and the resources of Roush Fenway with his talent and determination to forge a partnership that yielded a championship at the Cup level and all of his 22 Cup victories, including two Daytona 500 wins,” continued Roush. “The No. 17 is positioned extremely well this season, and I’m committed to providing the team the best resources to continue their run for the 2012 championship. I have no doubt that Matt will do his part.”

“Matt and I broke into this sport together, learned the ropes and were able to bring home a championship,” said Roush Fenway general manager Robbie Reiser, who as crew chief of the No. 17 guided Kenseth to Roush Fenway’s first Sprint Cup title in 2003 before moving into his current role. “Over the 20 years we have worked with each other, Matt has been a fierce competitor and become a close friend, not only for me, but as a mentor to young drivers like Ricky. I wish Matt nothing but the best for the next phase of his career, and know that we’ll remain close.”

Stenhouse Jr. is one of three drivers currently in development for Roush Fenway Racing. Trevor Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 champion and Chris Buescher, who has won seven races in only 42 starts in ARCAcompetition are also being groomed for Sprint Cup competition for Roush Fenway in the future.

“We take great pride in the depth of the bench here,” noted team president Steve Newmark. “The organization’s ability to identify and develop new talent is part of our DNA and a cornerstone of our success. I’m excited about the opportunity to bring Ricky into the Sprint Cup Series and get him into victory lane. He has an incredible opportunity to continue his winning ways, just as Matt did nearly 15 years ago.”

Roush Fenway Racing is the winningest team in NASCAR history, fielding multiple teams in the Sprint Cup andNationwide Series with championship drivers Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Trevor Bayne. Celebrating 25 winning years in 2012, Roush Fenway is the leader in NASCARmarketing solutions, pioneering its exclusive Roush Fenway OnTrack sponsorship measurement services, motorsport’s first team-focused TV show and its award-winning social marketing channel RickyvsTrevor.com. Visit www.RoushFenway.com, become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/roushfenway and follow on Twitter at @roushfenway. For sponsorship inquiries call John Bauersfeld at 704.720.4621.

- Roush Fenway Racing

Kenseth to Leave Roush-Fenway Following 2012 Season

Matt Kenseth and Jack Roush to part ways after 2012 season (Getty)
ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR points leader Matt Kenseth is leaving Roush Fenway Racing and the No. 17 Ford at the end of the season, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be promoted to his seat in the Sprint Cup Series.

There has been widespread speculation at Sonoma that Kenseth was leaving to join Joe Gibbs Racing, but Kenseth declined before Sunday's race to discuss his future with the Roush organization, which he has been with for all but one of his 452 career starts.

"I'm very thankful to Jack Roush for the opportunities he's given me over the past 14 years. Together we have enjoyed a lot of success," Kenseth tweeted on Tuesday. "And as a team we are committed as ever to the remainder of the 2012 season and chasing a 3rd sprint cup title for Jack and RFR. Although I have nothing to announce regarding 2013, I feel the timing of this announcement gives RFR ample time to get things lined up..."

Roush did not disclose a reason in announcing Kenseth's departure Tuesday.

"I'd like to thank Matt Kenseth for his many years of loyal service," team co-owner Jack Roush said in a statement. "Matt has been an integral part of this organization for well over a decade, and we are extremely appreciative of his accomplishments and contributions to the team, and will always consider him a part of the Roush Fenway family."

Some in the sport have speculation that Kenseth is headed to Gibbs Racing for either Joey Logano's seat in the No. 20 Toyota, or a fourth car. Gibbs, however, said on June 17 that he planned to re-sign the 22-year-old Logano, whose contract with JGR expires after this season.

Read More Here...

Monday, June 25, 2012

LVH Super Book Odds to Win 2012 Quaker State 400 at Kentucky

Martin Truex Jr. (25/1) led 173 laps on similar track of Kansas (Getty)
QUAKER STATE 400
KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY
SATURDAY, JUNE 30, 2012


JIMMIE JOHNSON 5
CARL EDWARDS 10
KYLE BUSCH 7
MATT KENSETH 8
JEFF GORDON 12
TONY STEWART 8
KEVIN HARVICK 12
KASEY KAHNE 12
DENNY HAMLIN 10
GREG BIFFLE 8
BRAD KESELOWSKI 15
DALE EARNHARDT JR 12
CLINT BOWYER 25
RYAN NEWMAN 40
AJ ALLMENDINGER 50
MARTIN TRUEX JR 25
JEFF BURTON 100
JOEY LOGANO 30
JUAN MONTOYA 100
JAMIE McMURRAY 100
KURT BUSCH 60
MICHAEL WALTRIP 100
PAUL MENARD 100
MARCOS AMBROSE 100
ARIC ALMIROLA 300
REGAN SMITH 500
BOBBY LABONTE 1000
DAVID RAGAN 1000
DAVID GILLILAND 1000
FIELD 100

2012 Kentucky Quaker Sate 400 Odds & Ends


Kyle Busch won 2011 inaugural event (Getty) 

At Kentucky Speedway:
History
·         In 1998, the track broke ground in Sparta, Kentucky, and opened as a 1.5-mile speedway in 2000.
·         The original owners, Jerry Carroll and four other investors owned the track until 2008, when current owners, Speedway Motorsports Inc. purchased the facility.
·         Since 2000, the track has hosted 11 NASCAR Nationwide Series (2001-2011) and 13 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races (2000-2011).
·         The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was held in 2011.
Notebook
·         There has been one NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway (2011).
·         The first NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying at Kentucky was cancelled due to weather. The starting line-up was set per the NASCAR Rule Book.
·         Kyle Busch won the first NASCAR Sprint Cup race; he started from the first position.
·         The 2011 event had 20 lead changes among 20 leaders.
·         Of the scheduled 267 laps, Kyle Busch led the most with 125, followed by Brad Keselowski with 79 laps led.
·         23 cars of the 43-car field finished on the lead lap, with 34 cars running at the finish.
·         The margin of victory for the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky was 0.179 seconds.
·         Youngest/Oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kentucky Speedway winner: Kyle Busch (07/09/2011 – 26 years, 2 months, 7 days).
·         Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers in wins at 1.5-mile race tracks(16 wins).
 
Kentucky Speedway Data
Race #: 17 of 36 (06-30-12)
Track Size: 1.5 miles
Race Length: 267 laps / 400.5 miles
·     Banking/Turns: 14 degrees
·     Banking/Frontstretch: 8 degrees
·     Banking/Backstretch: 4 degrees
·     Frontstretch: 1,662 feet
·     Backstretch: 1,600 feet
  
Top 12 Driver Rating at Kentucky
Kyle Busch................................ 145.6
Jimmie Johnson......................... 119.8
Brad Keselowski........................ 118.6
Kurt Busch................................ 118.5
Carl Edwards............................. 108.2
David Reutimann........................ 105.8
Matt Kenseth............................. 103.1
Juan Pablo Montoya................... 100.7
Tony Stewart.............................. 97.2
Kasey Kahne.............................. 94.6
David Ragan............................... 94.1
Kevin Harvick.............................. 85.8
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (one total) at Kentucky.
 
Qualifying/Race Data
2011 pole winner: None due to weather
2011 race winner: Kyle Busch, (137.314 mph, 2:55:00, 07-09-11)
Track qualifying record:  None due to weather
Track race record: Kyle Busch, (137.314 mph, 2:55:00, 07-09-11)
 
NASCAR in Kentucky
·         There have been two NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Kentucky:
Track Name
City
NSCS
Years
Kentucky Speedway
Sparta
1
2011
Corbin Speedway
Corbin
1
1954
 
·         41 drivers from NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Kentucky
 

Kentucky Quaker State 400 Storylines

MWR won at Sonoma, how about two in row with Truex Jr.? (Getty)
Clint Bowyer was perhaps the most disappointed driver of 2011. He was the first outside the top 10 in points after 26 races to miss qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. Bowyer won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup road race at Sonoma on Sunday and hopes it builds momentum toward a Chase berth, which would be Michael Waltrip Racing’s first trip to the postseason.

Saturday night’s second Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway marks the beginning of the Race for the Chase – the season’s second-most important 10 weeks that ends with the 12-driver Chase field determined Sept. 8 at Richmond International Raceway. Nine of last year’s top 10 after the first 16 races made it to post-season play – ironically Bowyer being the odd man out.

Also interesting to note: champion Tony Stewart was 12th after Sonoma’s road race in 2011. He scratched and clawed his way into the Chase field and with five victories outlasted Carl Edwards on a tiebreaker.

Edwards continues to suffer through a championship near-miss slump. He’s 11th in points but, without a victory doesn’t currently figure in the Chase "Wild Card" battle headed by Quaker State 400 winner Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman.

Roush Fenway Racing’s Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle again are one-two in series points, the 15th week that one or the other has held the No. 1 spot. RFR loves the 1.5-mile intermediate tracks where in 25 seasons of NASCAR Cup competition the organization has collected 40 of its 127 victories.

NASCAR resumes its "tripleheader" format as the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series join the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Kentucky Speedway.

Joey Logano won three consecutive NASCAR Nationwide events in Kentucky (2008-2010) before Brad Keselowski stopped his streak a year ago. Logano has been red-hot in the series in 2012 winning four of the last five races he’s entered. The Feed the Children 300 is set for Friday night.

Keselowski will being doing triple duty at Kentucky Speedway beginning with Thursday night’s UNOH 225 in which he continues to seek his first NASCAR Camping World Truck victory to complete a sweep of all three NASCAR national series. The spotlight, however, may be on Nelson Piquet Jr. based upon what he did over the weekend. Piquet, a former Formula 1 competitor, became the first Brazilian to win a NASCAR national series event as he captured the NASCAR Nationwide Sargento 200 from a Coors Light Pole start.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

Race To The Chase Starts Now
Obviously the final 10 races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season comprise the most important segment of the season. The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ crowns the 2012 champion. But first you have to get there. The next 10 weeks – the Race to the Chase – sets the 12-driver field for the post-season beginning with Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 (TNT live 7:30 p.m. EDT) at Kentucky Speedway. The Chase lineup will be set following Richmond International Raceway’s event on Sept.8.

A look back at last year’s Race to the Chase: With 10 races to go, nine of the then-top 10 survived for post-season competition. Only Clint Bowyer missed the cut – and ironically Bowyer picked up his first victory of 2012 on Sunday in Sonoma. He’s ranked seventh, one spot better than a year ago.

Bowyer became the season’s 12th different winner – the most since 2003. Only two drivers ranked among the top 10 – Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick – are without a victory.

Of note: Tony Stewart, the 2011 champion, was 12th following last year’s Sonoma race.
Michael Waltrip Racing Comes of Age

Bowyer’s Sonoma victory was just the team’s third since formation in 2002. But it’s hard to say MWR and "dark horse" in the same sentence. Both Bowyer and Truex sit in the top 10. Truex led 15 laps in Sonoma where part-time MWR driver Brian Vickers, who’d spent the previous weekend competing in Le Mans’ famed 24-hour race, finished fourth.

MWR never has qualified a driver for the Chase, a short coming that likely will be ended this season.

‘Wild Card’ Competition Still Wide Open
A year ago, Brad Keselowski wasn’t being mentioned even as a favorite to pick up a "wild card" berth in the Chase, one of two spots reserved for drivers ranked 11th through 20th who have the most victories. But he’s a pivotal figure this year, battling Carl Edwards for the 10th points position which Keselowski grips by 11 points. Edwards, last year’s No. 2 points finisher, is "odd man out" at this juncture – out of the top 10 and without a victory thereby qualifying as a "wild card."

The top two "wild card" aspirants are Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman with one win apiece and ranked 12th and 13th.

Prominent Names Still Winless in ’12
Jeff Gordon, the active driver with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup victories (85) heads a number of 2011 winners still waiting for their turn in Victory Lane. Gordon led all three practices at Sonoma, qualified second (to Marcos Ambrose – winner of Coors Light Poles in back-to-back weeks) and finished sixth after leading 13 laps. Ambrose, eighth in Sonoma, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Paul Menard, David Ragan, Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith also won a year ago but haven’t repeated in the season’s first 16 races.

Roush Fenway Racing Drivers One-Two Again
Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle again hold the top two spots in the standings and along with Edwards look forward to competing on Kentucky Speedway’s 1.5-mile layout. Roush Fenway Racing, celebrating its 25th season in NASCAR, counts 40 of 127 victories (31%) 1.5-mile intermediate tracks. The organization is the top winner at three: Homestead-Miami Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. Biffle won at Texas earlier this spring.

Second Year On Cup Schedule For Kentucky
Kyle Busch dominated last year’s inaugural Quaker State 400 leading the most laps from a pole position that was set via the rule book due to inclement weather that canceled qualifying. Busch needs a pick-me-up for sure. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has averaged a finish of 27.0 over his past four starts and has fallen from ninth to 12th in the points standings.

Two drivers who could use a Bluegrass State victory to close on career track sweeps are Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. Each lacks wins on one additional scheduled facilities – Gordon at Homestead and Stewart at Darlington. Gordon led his 23,000th lap in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition on Sunday in Sonoma. He’s the active leader of the category and seventh in the history of laps led.

Kentucky Etc. Edwards can join Kyle Busch as a winner in all three NASCAR national series at Kentucky Speedway. He won his first NASCAR Camping World Truck race there in 2003 as a rookie and added a Nationwide Series victory in 2005.

- NASCAR Media Services