There is something special about racing under the lights, which is why the excitement surrounding Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway is palpable.
Kentucky is still a fairly new race on the Sprint Cup circuit, but NASCAR fans have already embraced it. Kentucky Speedway has manufactured three different winners in each of its three years as a Sprint Cup track, which means almost anyone could conquer the 1.5-mile tri-oval.
Many of the best drivers in NASCAR have yet to win a race this season, which means their spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup could be in jeopardy. With those drivers trying to get on the board and others looking to improve their standings, this should be an extremely competitive race.
Here is everything you need to know about when and where to watch the Quaker State 400 Saturday night as well as which drivers you should keep an eye on.
Where: Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky
When: Saturday, June 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Steam: TNTDrama.com
Radio: Performance Racing Network
Quaker State 400 qualifying will take place Friday, June 27 at 5:40 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1, per NASCAR.com.
|Quaker State 400 Qualifying Lineup|
|Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||17|
|Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88|
|Martin Truex Jr.||78|
Drivers to Watch
With one win and a fifth-place spot in the Sprint Cup standings to his credit, Brad Keselowski's spot in the Chase is fairly secure. The driver of the famed No. 2 car has an insatiable appetite for winning, though, which means it is highly unlikely Keselowski will play it safe in the Quaker State 400.
Since wins will determine the initial Chase standings, the goal is to take the checkered flag as many times as possible prior to the Chase. Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick all have multiple wins, so Keselowski is trying to catch up in that regard.
Despite being a former Sprint Cup champion, Keselowski has been somewhat overshadowed by the success of Hendrick Motorsports this season. Keselowski is well aware that it will take some big efforts to keep pace with Hendrick's superior equipment, according to Bob Pockrass of Sporting News:
I think right now the Penske cars are probably the best when it comes to (aero) balance track to track. The Hendrick cars are probably the best where it takes power to run. These tracks are certainly one of those, and Kevin Harvick, his team is probably the fastest week in and week out. ... We all have got a little bit of work to do because it's pretty obvious that the Hendrick engines are way ahead of everyone else. Usually that's not something you catch up with in one season. As far ahead as they are right now, they're probably a full season ahead of everyone.
Keselowski's car will be put to the test Saturday night against Hendrick Motorsports and the rest of the cars in the Quaker State 400 field. As a former winner at Kentucky in Sprint Cup and a two-time Kentucky winner in the Nationwide Series, Keselowski is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
If he can avoid getting caught up in wrecks, Keselowski will have a golden opportunity to solidify his spot in the Chase with a second win.
Although he hasn't been enjoying his best season, Kyle Busch is playing with house money entering Kentucky. Busch sits in 11th place, but he is fairly free of pressure, as he has a win under his belt. Busch would love to get another, though, and Kentucky presents a solid chance.
Busch won the inaugural Sprint Cup race at Kentucky in 2011, and he has won there on the Nationwide and Truck Series as well. In fact, Busch won Thursday night's truck race, which has become commonplace for him this season, according to Jeff Gluck of USA Today:
There was some controversy surrounding the victory, as Busch's truck failed the post-race inspection for being too low, but the win is expected to stand, per Pockrass.
While there is obviously a big difference between a truck race and a Sprint Cup race, Busch has to be feeling confident. He has a penchant for racking up multiple wins across different series in the same weekend, so Busch is definitely a big threat to watch Saturday night.
No driver may be more desperate on Saturday night than Matt Kenseth. He has had an excellent season thus far, as he is currently fourth in the standings, but he is by far the best driver who has yet to win a race.
Since 10 different drivers have won, there is a great deal of pressure on Kenseth to get on the board; otherwise, he risks missing out on the Chase altogether. According to NASCAR on ESPN, Kenseth fully understands the importance of reaching victory lane in the coming weeks:
Kenseth won this race last year, so he has to know he is perfectly capable of doing so again. Kenseth has had plenty of chances to win this season, but he simply hasn't been able to seal the deal. Luck hasn't exactly been on his side either, although that can change at any moment in NASCAR.
Kenseth is the type of driver who tends to win in bunches, so the floodgates could easily burst open once he gets his first. If he does so at Kentucky, he should be able to build some momentum as the Chase approaches.
While it is tough to say for sure which drivers will be great and which drivers will struggle at Kentucky, some trends have certainly started to form over the past three years. The aforementioned drivers all have a great chance to win, but they are far from alone.
Joey Logano is worth watching, as he has won thrice at Kentucky on the Nationwide Series. He also has two wins this season, which means he can afford to gamble and go for the gusto.
In terms of deep sleepers, Austin Dillon is definitely a possibility. The rookie has had a strong campaign, as he sits in 18th place in the standings. He has two wins at Kentucky on the Nationwide Series and has a chance to bring the No. 3 car back to victory lane in the Sprint Cup Series.
While roughly half the field has a legitimate chance to win, only one driver will be good enough and lucky enough to earn that distinction. When push comes to shove, look for Keselowski to earn his second career win at this track and his second win of the season.
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