Weekend Preview: Kentucky – July 5 – July 8, 2017
By Matteo Marcheschi
Keselowski Tries for Fourth Win in Bluegrass State
Brad Keselowski is set to attack Kentucky Speedway in an effort to capture his fourth career win at the track. Keselowski has won half of the Cup Series events at Kentucky, with three victories in six races. He has only finished outside the top 10 once, after being involved in a wreck in 2013. He also has never started outside the top 10 at the 1.5 mile circuit. A win at Kentucky would be Keselowski’s third victory of the 2017 campaign.
Kyle Busch Continues Search for First Cup Win of 2017
Kyle Busch still has not captured a win in the Cup Series, despite having led 746 laps and having won four stages so far this season. Prospects look good for Busch at Kentucky, though. His average finish at the track is just outside of the top five, tied for the best of anyone with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth. Busch has led 437 laps at the track, second only to Brad Keselowski, and has two wins, also second to Keselowski. Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway looks to be a Busch vs. Keselowski battle, but a certain other Kyle looks to spoil the party.
Larson Looks to Return to Stride After Back-to-Back Disappointing Races
Kyle Larson is looking to continue to extend his points lead, which has continued to grow despite two consecutive less-than-stellar races: 26th at Sonoma and 29th at Daytona. While Larson hasn’t impressed at Kentucky — one top 20 and one DNF in three events — he has been extremely strong this season, with two wins and an average finish of 10.2. Look for him to contend Saturday night.
Playoff Preview at Kentucky
The NASCAR XFINITY Series visits the Kentucky Speedway for the first of its two events in 2017. The other one comes at the beginning of the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs. This event could certainly show what is to be expected when the playoffs roll around in September. It did last year, as future Championship Four drivers Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler finished third and sixth, respectively. Sadler would take victory in September, with Suarez second. However, Suarez would claim the XFINITY Series title for 2016.
Busch Returns to XFINITY, Trucks, Nears Petty’s 200 Win Mark
While Kyle Busch has failed to find victory lane in the Cup Series, he has certainly had success in the XFINITY Series, with one victory and three top fives in four starts so far in 2017. Between the three national series, Busch has 173 wins, and can pass 175 this weekend. This would put him within 25 wins of Petty’s mark. Despite NASCAR’s new rule limiting Cup driver participation in lower series, Busch has two Truck Series wins and one XFINITY Series win this season in seven total starts.
Byron Rides Wave of Momentum
XFINITY Series rookie William Byron is looking for a third consecutive win in the series this weekend. He captured his first two wins in succession at Michigan and Daytona, and looks to make it three in a row at Kentucky. He would join a list of seven other drivers to win three in a row in the series, including Kyle Busch, Sam Ard, Mark Martin, and Ryan Newman. If he can win at Kentucky, he would be the first XFINITY Series driver to capture his first three wins in consecutive races.
Nemechek Also Looking For the Three-peat
John Hunter Nemechek is also looking for a third consecutive victory. His wins at Gateway and Iowa have vaulted into a playoff position after two consecutive crashes put his competitiveness in doubt. Nemechek now has his name next to that of Christopher Bell’s as top championship contenders in the Truck Series this season.
Mid-race Points Big So Far in 2017
For Johnny Sauter, Christopher Bell, and Chase Briscoe, stage points have been very important in 2017. Sauter’s 134 stage points make up 30.9% of his 433 total points. This figure has him up front in the Truck Series points standings. Second in the standings is Bell, whose 106 stage points account for 27.1% of his 391 total points. Chase Briscoe, who lies third in the standings, has accumulated 102 stage points this season, 28.5% of his 357 total points. These top three in overall points are also top three in stage points. In-race consistency has now become as important as finishing position, if not more important.