|Martin Truex Jr. now a major player in Chase watch following win|
What a homecoming gift for Michael Waltrip Racing.
The Owensboro, Ky., native takes his three Michael Waltrip Racing teams home to the Bluegrass state this weekend for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. EST, TNT, Performance Racing Radio, SIRIUSXM Radio) at Kentucky Speedway, fresh off of Martin Truex Jr.’s huge road-course victory in California.
Using Truex and winner in the same sentence hadn’t happened for more than six years – 2,210 days to be exact. The 218-race gap between Truex’s victory at Dover International Speedway in June 2007 and Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 triumph at Sonoma Raceway set a NASCAR Sprint Cup record for longest between a driver’s first and second wins.
But it isn’t a fluke for either Truex, a two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and former road-race winner who has finished second six times since his Dover victory, or MWR, which had three wins last year and now has both full-time drivers Truex and Clint Bowyer ranked in the top 10.
It’s “go-time” for drivers hoping to land a berth in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™. Just 10 races remain in the regular season beginning with Kentucky’s night race. Three multiple winners – Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick – have established themselves as champion co-favorites but the jostling among additional contenders continues.
Just 14 points is the difference between 10th – and a Chase lock in – and 14th, which is currently a Chase lock out.
Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart is among the “out” this week although he currently holds one of two Wild Card hands along with Kasey Kahne.
Brad Keselowski is the defending Quaker State 400 winner but without a victory in 2013 – and only nine points to the good as far as the Chase is concerned. Only one previous champion, Tony Stewart in 2006, has failed to qualify for the following year’s postseason during the Chase era. Keselowski and Kyle Busch – the only two NASCAR Sprint Cup winners at Kentucky – will run all three NASCAR national series races this weekend.
All three of NASCAR’s national series will be in action at Kentucky Speedway beginning with a Thursday night date for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (8 p.m. EST, SPEED) and NASCAR Nationwide Series on Friday night (7:30 p.m. EST, ESPN).
While the NNS Feed the Children 300 pays the same number of points as any other event, its finish could be the springboard to a $1 million payoff. Friday night’s race will determine eligibility for Daytona International Speedway’s opening round of the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash (#Dash4Cash) program. The top four points eligible finishers at Kentucky Speedway will race each other for a $100,000 bonus at Daytona.
A driver will claim the $1 million prize by winning bonuses at Daytona, New Hampshire and Chicagoland and taking the victory outright at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway event on July 27.
Regan Smith’s 28-point lead in the standings remains secure – but not as comfortable as the 58 markers he enjoyed before finishing 32nd in last Saturday’s race at Road America. Veteran Justin Allgaier is the new second-place competitor, bypassing Sam Hornish Jr., who led the points earlier in the season.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has seen a major infusion of new – and youthful – talent this season. Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader Jeb Burton, 20, won earlier this month in Texas. Now NASCAR K&N Pro Series East star Brett Moffitt, 20, will make his series debut in Thursday night’s UNOH 225.
Matt Crafton is the series points leader by 23 over Burton.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – QUAKER STATE 400, SATURDAY, JUNE 29, 8 P.M. EDT ON TNT
‘Go Time’ For Chase Contenders With Regular Season Winding Down
It’s go-time with 10 races remaining until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ begins. Four drivers with multiple victories – Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch – have established themselves as championship co-favorites. The remainder of the current top 10, particularly among the second five, remains fluid with weekly comings and goings. The difference between 10th and 14th in the standings is just 14 points.
Sonoma Victory Moves Truex Into Title Conversation
Among the “comers” is Sonoma Raceway winner Martin Truex Jr., who occupied a top-10 position in the standings once already this season (ninth after Charlotte) and stood 34th in the standings after race No. 2 in Phoenix. Truex, a two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion and NNS road race winner in Mexico City, bumped Tony Stewart out of 10th and into a possible Wild Card berth. Truex is a single point behind reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and defending Kentucky winner Brad Keselowski.
Kahne, Stewart Hold This Week’s Chase Wild Card Hands
Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart, both one-time winners in 2013, hold the Wild Card hands heading into this weekend’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Kahne is 11th in points, eight behind Martin Truex Jr. Stewart is 15th, 20 points out of the top 10. Kahne finished second in last year’s Kentucky race while Stewart was 32nd. Among those vying for Wild Card consideration is Paul Menard, third in Wild Card standings but ranked in the top 10 after eight events this year; and Jeff Gordon, who finished second at Sonoma and trails Menard by one position and four points in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.
Gordon Can Fill Dance Card, Improve Chase Chances At Kentucky
Kentucky Speedway is the only “blank spot” on Jeff Gordon’s 87-victory dance card. The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion counts at least one victory on every other track currently scheduled having erased Homestead-Miami Speedway from the short list last November. Gordon finished fifth at Kentucky Speedway a year ago behind Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kasey Kahne (second) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fourth). Jimmie Johnson was sixth placing each HMS car in the top 10.
Ford Teams Gain Momentum As Gen-6 Development Continues
Through much of the early season – and as teams develop their Gen-6 race cars – Ford had appeared to trail both Chevrolet and Toyota. The tide appears to be changing. Two Ford teams and three Ford Fusion drivers occupy top-10 positions in the standings. Carl Edwards, who trails leader Jimmie Johnson by 25 points, is second with one victory. Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle, the Pocono winner earlier this month, is sixth. Brad Keselowski and Penske Racing stand ninth. A third-place finish at Sonoma was Edwards’ best since Talladega while Biffle recorded his third consecutive top 10. Keselowski’s teammate, Joey Logano, continues to impress in his first season in the No. 22 Ford. An 11th-place finish on the road course snapped a four-race, top-10 run but left the Connecticut driver just 14 points out of a Chase eligible ranking.