Chevrolet seeks elusive Kentucky Cup win

Daniel McFadin
NBC Sports

Chevrolet has won a lot in the Cup Series.

In fact, Chevy cars have gone to victory lane 781 times in Cup competition, most recently with Alex Bowman at Chicagoland Speedway.

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But among all the active tracks the Cup Series has visited multiple times, there is one that continues to elude the bow tie: Kentucky Speedway, which the series returns to this weekend (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN).

The Cup Series has visited the 1.5-mile track in Sparta, Kentucky, eight times since 2011. Each time Chevrolet came up empty.

The winners of those eight races have been divided among Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing and the now defunct Furniture Row Racing, which won the last two races.

Two facts put Chevy’s lack of Kentucky win in perspective.

The Cup Series has been going to Kentucky long enough that three manufacturers have won there. That would be Toyota (five wins), Ford (two wins) and … Dodge.

Yes, Dodge claimed a win at Kentucky in 2012 with Brad Keselowski. That was its final year of competition before leaving NASCAR.

Also, remember Jeff Gordon? The four-time champion and winner of 93 races won at least once on every track he raced on in Cup competition … except Kentucky. Gordon never led a lap on the oval and his best result in five starts was fifth in 2012.

How close has Chevy come to winning in Kentucky?

It’s finished second three times, with Kasey Kahne in 2012, Jamie McMurray in 2013 and Kyle Larson in 2017. None of them led a lap in their efforts.

The most promising efforts came from Jimmie Johnson in 2013 and Kevin Harvick in 2016.

Johnson 182 laps in 2013, but finished ninth after he spun on a restart on Lap 248 while defending second place from Joey Logano.

Three years later, Harvick started from the pole and led 128 laps but he lost the lead to Keselowski on a Lap 200 restart. Keselowski went the final 67 laps without pitting and won. Like Johnson, Harvick finished ninth.

Only three Chevrolet drivers in the field for Saturday’s race have won at Kentucky: Ty and Austin Dillon and William Byron.

Austin Dillon in victory lane at Kentucky Speedway in 2012. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Austin Dillon in victory lane at Kentucky Speedway in 2012. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Austin Dillon swept the Xfinity Series races there in 2012.

“Kentucky is one of those places I’ve always been pretty decent at, going back to the NASCAR Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series days,” Austin Dillon said in a media release. “We were able to win there, and any time that you head into a track that you’ve been successful at in the past you go in with some confidence.

“The repave is a few years old now (2016) so it should be fun to see how that’s shaping up. We will look forward to Kentucky as one of those places that we feel like we can run well at. At this point, we need a win in order to make it into the playoffs and that is our goal.”

Ty Dillon and Byron have one win each there in the Gander Outdoor Truck Series. Dillon won in 2013 and Byron in 2016.

“Kentucky has lost a lot of grip quickly,” Byron said in a media release. “They repaved it less than five years ago and it has really gotten grayer and grayer each year. I’m sure it’s going to be even more slick this year when we go back. It’s one of those tracks that takes a while to get rubber, so you just have to almost wait for that process to happen and make sure you tune your car to the rubber and not the clean track. That’s really all I’m worried about is once the rubber lays down you know it’s going to be a different race track.”

While Chevy hasn’t found victory lane in Kentucky, its drought comes up short of Ford and Toyota and the tracks those two manufacturers took the longest to win at.

Ford’s longest stretch occurred at Martinsville Speedway.

From the track’s opening in 1949, it took 24 races before the blue oval finally won on the short track with Fred Lorenzen in April 1961.

For Toyota, which debuted in the Cup Series in 2007, the track that plagued it the most was Auto Club Speedway.

It took 11 races on the 2-mile speedway before Kyle Busch won there in March 2013. The race total before his win was helped by Auto Club hosting two races a year from 2004-2010.

Here are the tracks Chevrolet has its fewest Cup wins at courtesy of Racing Insights.

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