NASCAR at Kentucky Speedway

2016 July 7 319397

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented By Advance Auto Parts
Kentucky Speedway Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps)
Saturday, July 9 7:30 p.m. ET TV: NBCSN, 6 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

NASCAR XFINITY Series Alsco 300
Kentucky Speedway Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)
Friday, July 8 8:30 p.m. ET TV: NBCSN, 8:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Buckle Up in Your Truck 225
Kentucky Speedway Distance: 225 miles (150 laps)
Thursday, July 7 8:30 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 8 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

2016 July 9 319391

Halfway, Next Time By

Tune in to the ‘Officials’ channel on the NASCAR Mobile app, and you’ll hear it at the midpoint of every race: ‘Halfway next time by.’ It’s a phrase that lets competitors know that on the next lap, the race is official.

As for the 2016 season, Kentucky is the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ halfway point. But we all know … it ain’t official until the champion raises the trophy in Miami.

But, this is a good time to reflect back on an incredible first half, one in which fans have taken notice for one fairly obvious reason – the racing is as good as its been in years (heck, maybe ever).

From the closest finish in Daytona 500 history to a most appropriate Independence Day Weekend flag-waving celebration by 2012 champion Brad Keselowski last Saturday at the series’ return to Daytona, this season has provided its share of breathtaking moments.

Three tracks have seen green-flag-pass records fall: (Atlanta, Auto Club Speedway and Bristol). And one boasted the second-highest green flag pass total ever recorded (Talladega, 213).

And the endings: The Daytona 500 and Phoenix race both ended with razor-thin margins of victory (.010 seconds). The Sprint Showdown boasted two segments that ended with miniscule margins of victory.

Of course, the stars make the show – and the breakout stars of 2016 are a crop of surprising and promising youngsters.

Austin Dillon (26) and rookies Chase Elliott (20) and Ryan Blaney (22) are firmly on the Chase Grid, and would make NASCAR’s playoffs if they began today. The 1-2-3 finishers for the Michigan race in June were ages 26 (Joey Logano), 20 (Elliott) and 23 (Kyle Larson), forming the youngest top 3 in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history.

It’s all led to a thrilling first 18 races. And the best news of all: There’s still 18 to go.

Kentucky Marks Second Appearance Of Updated NASCAR Rules Package

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will run its rules updates implemented last month at Michigan International Speedway for the second time in Saturday’s Quaker State 400 Presented By Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The rules package developments are part of an industry-wide collaboration to further enhance the quality of racing.

Earlier in the season, welded truck trailing arms and new brake cooling rules were put into place. The following updates to the rules package were added at Michigan and Kentucky to further reduce downforce and sideforce:

· Reduce skew generated sideforce by setting rear toe to zero

· Aero package tweaks to reduce aero-generated downforce and sideforce

o Spoiler shortened from 3.5 inches to 2.5 inches

o Splitter reduced to 2 inches

o Resize of deck fin to match spoiler

Saturday’s race will be the first Sprint Cup contest on Kentucky’s repaved racing surface and the reconfigured first and second turns.

Kentucky Set To Debut New Surface
Kentucky Speedway underwent a full repave during the offseason and its new surface debuts from Wednesday through Saturday when all three of NASCAR’s national series head to The Bluegrass State.

In addition to the repave, Turns 1 and 2 had their banking increased from 14 to 17 degrees. The racing groove narrowed in the process. Turns 3 and 4 remain 14 degrees.

The track also added 3,200 feet SAFER barrier and made improvements to its drainage system.

Captain Of The Century: Keselowski Notches Team Penske’s 100th Win, Looks Forward To Kentucky

Brad Keselowski tied Kyle Busch for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins lead by taking his third checkered flag of the season at Daytona. The victory was the 100th for Team Penske, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Keselowski will go for his second straight victory in in Saturday’s Quaker State 400 Presented By Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway. He ranks tied with Busch for first on Kentucky’s all-time wins list with two triumphs. Matt Kenseth is the only other driver to win at the 1.5-mile track since the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series began racing there in 2011.

The No. 2 Ford driver’s 117.8 driver rating at Kentucky is the second-best among active drivers.

On the season, Keselowski claims seven top fives and 11 top 10s in 17 starts.

Kyle Busch Back In Business

After recording a finish of 30th or worse in four straight races, Kyle Busch has produced finishes of seventh (Sonoma) and second (Daytona) in his last two contests.

The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion looks to continue his recent success at one of his top tracks – Kentucky Speedway. In five starts in the Bluegrass State, Busch boasts two wins, four top fives and five top 10s. He leads active drivers at Kentucky in driver rating (129.1), average finish (3.8), average running position (4.6) and laps led (437).

On the season, Busch has three wins, 10 top fives and 11 top 10s in 17 starts.

Roush Trio Produces Season Bests At Daytona
The Roush Fenway Racing trio of Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Greg Biffle finished third, fifth and eighth, respectively, at Daytona – all individual season-best showings.

Bayne’s previous-best result this season was a fifth at Bristol. Stenhouse finished fifth earlier this year at Fontana. Biffle’s earlier season-high was an 11th-place result at Charlotte.

Bayne has the best Chase outlook of the RFR drivers. He sits 18th on the Chase Grid, 10 points behind 16th-place Ryan Blaney. Stenhouse mans the 22nd spot, 21 points behind Blaney. Biffle trails in 23rd, 85 points off Blaney’s pace.

The organization has never won at Kentucky Speedway – the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ next stop.

Kenseth Can Turn Performance Around At Kentucky
Matt Kenseth has struggled lately with finishes of 14th (Michigan), 20th (Sonoma) and 28th (Daytona) in his last three races.

Kentucky could be his panacea.
In five starts at the 1.5-mile track, Kenseth owns three top-five and five top-10 finishes. Among active drivers at Kentucky, he claims the second-best average finish (4.6), third-best average running position (9.0) and fourth-best driver rating (106.7).

On the season, the No. 20 Toyota driver has one win, two top fives and six top 10s.

Stewart Looks Chase Bound
Although he finished 26th at Daytona due to a late-race accident, Tony Stewart moved into 30th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, three points ahead of 31st place Brian Scott. If he stays in the top 30 following Richmond, Stewart will make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Since returning at Richmond in April, Stewart has one win, one top five, three top 10s and an average finish of 18.1.

On Saturday, Stewart will make his final career start at Kentucky Speedway where he owns a high finish of 11th (2014).

The No. 14 Chevrolet driver is attempting to notch his 50th victory. A 50th win would tie Stewart with NASCAR Hall of Famers Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett for 11th on the all-time list. Every eligible driver with as many wins as Stewart is in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Dillon Continues Breakout Year
Austin Dillon continues to zero in on his first career Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth, following his seventh-place showing at Daytona. He sits 13th on the Chase Grid, 29 points ahead of Jamie McMurray on the cutoff line.

A mere 17 races into the season, Dillon has set career highs in top fives and top 10s. The Welcome, North Carolina native is still looking for his first win.

9 To Go: Winless Drivers Who Have Visited Victory Lane At Remaining Tracks

Only five berths remain for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with nine races left in the season.
Remember, “Win and you’re in.” A driver gets into the Chase with a victory as long as he/she is in the top 30 of the points standings and attempts every race.

And speaking of clinching, a number of drivers can lock up a top-30 spot this weekend. Any driver who has multiple wins and leaves Kentucky with a 361-point lead on 31st place is guaranteed to be among the top-16 winners and top 30 in points, thereby locking up a Chase spot. Those who can do it at Kentucky: Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano.

Below are the remaining tracks and winless drivers who have visited Victory Lane at them:

Kentucky: None
New Hampshire: Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne
Indianapolis: Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman
Pocono: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman
Watkins Glen: AJ Allmendinger
Bristol: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne
Michigan: Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne
Darlington: Greg Biffle, Regan Smith
Richmond: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES

2016 July 8 319392

Brand New Kentucky Speedway Awaits The NASCAR XFINITY Series
Crew chiefs can toss out their old notes because Kentucky Speedway underwent a full repave during the offseason and its new surface debuts from Wednesday through Saturday when all three of NASCAR’s national series head to The Bluegrass State.

In addition to the repave, Turns 1 and 2 had their banking increased from 14 to 17 degrees. The racing groove narrowed in the process. Turns 3 and 4 remain 14 degrees.

The track also added 3,200 feet SAFER barrier and made improvements to its drainage system. The NASCAR XFINITY Series will get the chance to rubber up the newly repaved surface in Friday’s ALSCO 300 (July 8, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Kentucky Speedway joined the NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule in 2001 and Kevin Harvick (Chevrolet) won the inaugural event on June 6. Since then, Kentucky Speedway has hosted 19 series races, one per season from 2001 to 2011, and then two races per season since 2012.

Team Penske leads the series in wins with five at the track, while drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are tied for most series wins at Kentucky with three apiece. Defending race winner, Brad Keselowski, will be in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Fusion this weekend.

The series will have plenty of on-track time to prepare for the race on Friday night with four practices on Thursday, July 7. Qualifying will take place on Friday, July 8 at 4:45 p.m. ET.

Countdown To The Chase: Eleven Races Till the Playoffs
Just 11 races remain for NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers to secure a spot in the 2016 Chase. This weekend is big for the teams vying for a Chase spot because Kentucky Speedway is the first track in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase.

The seven-race NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase will begin at Kentucky Speedway on Sept. 24, and feature 12 drivers and two elimination rounds, with four drivers competing in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Only three series title contenders have wins this season – Erik Jones (two), Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suárez (each with one victory) – leaving nine spots to be claimed by points.

Five drivers currently sit on the Chase bubble. In 10th place is Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed who holds a 32-point cushion over 13th place. Just behind Reed sits Ryan Sieg in 11th, coming off his best finish of the season (third) this past weekend at Daytona. Sieg holds a slim 16-point advantage over 13th. In 12th place, and with his back against the proverbial Chase wall, Blake Koch ranks seven points above the cut line. Ross Chastain (-7) in 13th place and Jeremy Clements (-35) in 14th are on the outside looking in.

Expect the five drivers on the Chase bubble to battle it out for points this weekend as four of the five have comparable average finishes at Kentucky: Reed (16.7), Sieg (18.2), Koch (30.2), Chastain (16.0) and Clements (22.0).

Suárez Sees Lead Diminish, But Not Disappear
Daytona wasn’t kind to NASCAR XFINITY Series points leader Daniel Suárez. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was caught in an accident that relegated him to a 32nd-place finish, and as a result, his 21-point lead over second-place Elliott Sadler dwindle to six points.

This weekend at Kentucky Speedway, the struggle to hold the lead in the standings could continue for Suárez. Suárez has made two starts at Kentucky, posting one top five and an average finish of 13.5. In comparison, Sadler has made nine starts at Kentucky, amassing four top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 8.2.

“The new pavement will present challenges for all of us, but I think our ARRIS team is ready and will work hard during our practice sessions on Thursday to find the right set up,” Suárez said. “It’s important to have a good weekend and learn as much as we can as we kick-off the 2016 XFINITY Chase when we return in September. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

Suárez fans don’t fret, if he can perform similarly to last season over these next 11 races until the Chase he will be hard to beat. In the 11 races from Kentucky to Chicago last season, Suárez posted an average finish of 8.5, compared to Sadler, who posted a 12.2 average finish during those same events.

Former Series Race Winners Looking For First Victory Of 2016
Four drivers inside the top 12 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings are former winners looking for their first victory this season – Ty Dillon (62 races since his last win), Justin Allgaier (59), Brendan Gaughan (54) and Ryan Reed (47). One of these four could possibly get a win and lock themselves into the Chase over the next several races.

Richard Childress Racing teammates Dillon and Gaughan are having solid 2016 seasons, sitting third and fifth in the standings, respectively. In 15 starts this season, Dillon has managed five top fives and nine top 10s. The 24-year-old is approaching some tracks he runs well at (including Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 23), the site of his first series win). Dillon has made four starts in the Bluegrass State, posting two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 6.8. Among those solid finishes at Kentucky, he wrestled his Chevrolet to a runner-up finish last September.

For the veteran Gaughan, Kentucky Speedway is a welcomed sight. The 1.5-mile track is home to his last series win (2014) and statistically is one of his best tracks. In seven starts at Kentucky, Gaughan has one win, four top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 4.7.

JR Motorsport’s driver Justin Allgaier came just a fender shy of getting his first series win of the season last weekend at Daytona. The Riverton, Illinois native is currently fourth in the standings after recording six top fives and 12 top 10s. Though Allgaier has seven starts at Kentucky, he hasn’t competed there since 2013 in the series. He has two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 10.7 at the 1.5-mile track.

Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed is still trying to find his footing in 2016 as he rests 10th in the points with one top-10 finish. Reed’s lone win came in the season-opening race at Daytona in 2015, and since then he has struggled to replicate his performance. But that could change this weekend, as Reed and the rest of the series will compete on a new surface at Kentucky. Reed has made four starts at Kentucky, logging an average finish of 16.8.

NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

2016 July 7 319393

Intermediate Ace Crafton Eyes Repeat At Kentucky
No current NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver has had as much success as Matt Crafton at intermediate tracks. Dating back to the 2014, the No. 88 ThorSport Racing driver has logged a top-10 finish in 19 of the last 21 races at ovals measuring 1.5 or 1.54 miles. During that stretch, he has logged seven wins and five runner-up finishes.

He will try to defend his victory from last season at Kentucky Speedway in Thursday’s Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

In 17 Kentucky starts, Crafton owns one win, five top fives, 12 top 10s and an average finish of 10.6.

On the season, he has two wins, four top fives and seven top 10s in nine starts. Crafton’s two victories virtually guarantee him a spot in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase. The Tulare, California native trails William Byron by one point for first in the series standings.

Crafton leads the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in average running position (6.0), driver rating (113.6), fastest laps run (210) and laps led (398).

Sunoco Rookie Of The Year Frontrunners Bell And Byron Aim For Another Win At Kentucky

Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates William Byron and Christopher Bell have continued the team’s legacy of success in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season.

The two Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunners (Byron leads Bell by 16 points in the rookie standings) have virtually assured themselves spots in the inaugural eight-driver NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase by winning races. Byron’s three visits to Victory Lane lead the series, while Bell won his first race of the season two weeks ago at Gateway.

Byron leads two-time champion Matt Crafton by one point in the series standings. In addition to his three wins, he claims four top fives and five top 10s in nine starts this season.

Bell’s victory at Gateway was the second of his career (Eldora) and his first on pavement. He has three top fives and five top 10s in nine starts this season.

Joining Bell and Byron in Thursday’s race are part-time KBM competitors, Kyle Busch and Daniel Suárez. A victory by a KBM driver would give the organization sole possession of first on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series all-time wins list with 51. KBM is currently tied in the record books with Roush Fenway Racing.

Louisville’s Rhodes Readies For NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Debut At Hometown Track

Ben Rhodes, from Louisville, Kentucky, will make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series track debut at his hometown venue in Thursday’s Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway.

NASCAR
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Graphics & Photos Courtesy of NASCAR

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