Last year was the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. Located in Sparta, Kentucky, roughly halfway between Cincinnati and Louisville, the speedway had waited a long time for a Cup date. After 11 years, the Cup drivers were finally racing around the mile-and-a-half tri-oval with Kyle Busch winning the event from the pole.
Last year's event was mired by a washout of qualifying and then an absolute traffic quagmire in northern Kentucky on Interstate 71 that left many people not able to see the race. But with all that said, what are we looking at as far as favorites to win in 2012? How can you analyze who will win with only one race run and no qualifying to boot? We'll take a shot at it with these five favorites to win the Quaker State 400 in Kentucky on Saturday night June 30th.
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. - A poor qualifying spot followed by a bad pit-stop that resulted in a blown tire ended his chances of a good finish last season at Kentucky. But Junior and his #88 team have been one of the strongest teams all year. He just won two weeks ago and until Sonoma last week, had never finished outside the top 20 all year. In four races at mile-and-a-half tracks, Junior has always finished in the Top 10. That will continue.
4. Kyle Busch - He won last year from the pole and would be considered the odds-on favorite this season but the #18 Toyota has been inconsistent all year. Kyle's finished anywhere from 23rd to 3rd at mile-and-a-half tracks this year - proving again, he's had an inconsistent season to-date. Expect him to be at the front at some time during this race, but whether he stays there … ?
3. Tony Stewart - If it's hot and slick on the track, then 'Smoke' is at the front. Summer is his time of year and Smoke has three straight top threes over the last three races this season but like Kyle Busch, the #14 has had inconsistent runs this year at mile-and-a-half race tracks. He should once again be in the top three at Kentucky.
2. Greg Biffle - Although his day really never got going last year at Kentucky, this season, 'Biffs' been at the front almost all year, especially at mile-and-a-half facilities like Kentucky. In fact, he's averaged a third place finish at mile-and-a-halves with a first, third, fourth and fifth so far this season. He should be near or in front when the checkers fly.
1. Jimmie Johnson - After a bit of a slow start, 'Five-time' is now one of the cars to beat, week-in and week-out, as proven by two wins and five top fives over the last six events. He finished third a year ago at Kentucky and has three top threes at the four mile-and-a-half tracks this season. He should win the Quaker State 400 this year.
You don't see Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth because, well, I can only list five plus none of these three looks like a winner in Kentucky. One long shot to keep your eye on though is Clint Bowyer. Yes, I know he just won at Sonoma but nothing much carries over from a road course to Kentucky, yet the Michael Waltrip Racing cars are all very competitive; plus, Bowyer has four straight Top 10s over the last four races. In other words, he's hot.
The race is at 6:30 PM Eastern and will be telecast live on TNT this Saturday.
Sources - NASCAR, Racing Reference
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus for several years has blogged about every type of racing.
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