Fantasy NASCAR Race Preview: Quaker State 400

by Eric McClung on June 26, 2013 @ 15:50:00 PDT


After years of legal wrangling, Kentucky Speedway finally landed on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule in 2011. Even though there are only two Cup races from which to extract data, fantasy owners can look to the other intermediate tracks that have already held races this season.

In terms of the banking around the track, Auto Club Speedway is perhaps the most similar to Kentucky even though it happens to be a 2.0-mile venue. Kansas Speedway is a 1.5-mile track with slightly more banking and held its first race of the season in late April. Texas Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway are also 1.5-mile courses that have already been visited.

Practice sessions: Friday, June 28, at 11:30 a.m. EST, 1:30 p.m. EST
Qualifying: Friday, June 28, at 5:10 p.m. EST
Race: Saturday, June 29, at 7:30 p.m. EST
Location: Sparta, Ky.
Shape: Tri-oval
Length: 1.50 miles
Laps: 267
Turns 1-4: 14 degrees
Tri-oval: 8-10 degrees
Backstretch: 4 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's Dover White Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon
Gordon not ending hunger for points

Johnson did not win either of the two Kentucky races held thus far but it looks like just a matter of time before he does. In the inaugural 2011 event the No. 48 qualified fifth and finished third with an average running position of sixth. Last year he captured the pole, finished sixth with 21 laps led and laid down an average running position of fourth.

Johnson has finished outside the top 10 only six times this season. Three have come in the last five races but Johnson rarely stays in a slump.

Carl Edwards | No. 99 UPS Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Edwards started seventh and placed fifth in the first race at Kentucky before having a good run ruined at the site last year. He qualified 25th but was running third with 10 laps to go until having to pit in the closing moments of the race in order to make it on fuel. That left him to finish one lap down in 20th position.

Edwards has now finished inside the top 20 in 15 straight races and is coming off his sixth top-five finish of the year.

Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Harvick owns an average finish of 13.5 in the two Kentucky races, the best among drivers without a top-10 at the site. Last year he qualified on the second row but finished one spot outside the top 10 due to handling issues.

He's now riding a streak of six consecutive top-10s after overcoming the late race missteps that cost him several times early in the season. Harvick will be using the same chassis this week that was driven to Victory Lane at Charlotte Memorial Day weekend.

Matt Kenseth | No. 20 Dollar General Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Even though he wasn't that great in qualifying, Kenseth finished sixth and seventh in the two Kentucky races held thus far. The most recent race on a 1.5-mile track this season saw him take the lead on three separate occasions at Charlotte for a total of 112 laps. Unfortunately, an accident with 65 laps to go took Kenseth out of contention and he was lucky to end his night in 15th.

Kenseth might be fifth in points but would sit higher if not for this and other dominating performances that were spoiled.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 Doublemint Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

There have been 534 laps circled across the two races held at Kentucky. Busch has led 45.5 percent of them thanks to winning from the pole in 2011 and finishing 10th from the outside pole last year.

Through 16 races this season Busch has finished sixth or better on nine occasions with two wins but fell outside the top 20 in the seven other races. It could be another all-or-nothing day but the blue grass has been kind to Rowdy so far.

Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Miller Lite Ford | Penske Championship Racing

A return to Kentucky could be what Keselowski needs to turn his season around. Over the last eight starts of the year he's finished outside the top 20 four times with only one top-10 result. Keselowski won this race a year ago with 68 laps led and a sizzling average running position of second. Back in 2011 he placed seventh with 79 laps led.

Martin Truex Jr. | No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Truex is coming off the second win of his Cup career, 218 races after winning at Dover International Speedway back in 2007. He finished eighth at Kentucky last year with an average running position of seventh and 98.5 percent of his laps were spent running in the top 15. Truex recently finished third at Michigan International Speedway and scored a ninth-place finish a month ago at Charlotte.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Newman landed a fourth-place finish in the 2011 race at Kentucky but crashed with 59 laps to go last year after qualifying fifth. He recently finished sixth at Charlotte and has been a sound performer on most intermediate tracks as of late. Newman also finished 10th at Texas Motor Speedway and is a sound middle-tier option this week.

Temper your expectations

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard Youth Foundation Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

After a lackluster showing in the 2011 race, Earnhardt finished fourth at Kentucky last year. However, Earnhardt suffered engine failures at both Charlotte and Michigan. Naturally, one has to be concerned how his motor will hold up this week. The No. 88 team has work to do when it comes to using them on an intermediate after this week.

Jeff Gordon | No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Gordon is one of only five drivers to score a top-10 finish in both of the Kentucky races. He finished 10th in 2011 and improved to a fifth-place performance last year. However, Gordon continues to have nightmares on intermediate tracks this season. He crashed at Charlotte and Michigan after suffering another DNF at Texas.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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