The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes center stage on Saturday night as the best drivers on the circuit take to the Bluegrass State in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. The question is: Who is going to emerge victorious and make a move up the standings?
Carl Edwards was the big winner in Sonoma last week. The 34-year-old wrangled the road track to pick up a crucial win and finds himself at No. 6 in the Sprint Cup standings.
Drivers will find themselves in more traditional territory this weekend. The Sparta, Kentucky, track is a 1.5-mile tri-oval track with a twist—its bumpy surface makes it one of the trickiest courses to navigate.
Matt Kenseth spoke about the bumpy road ahead, via Jeff Gluck of USA Today Sports: "It's definitely the roughest track in NASCAR. It's really, really bumpy, but I think there's a couple lanes there you can pass. It is a unique mile-and-a-half track."
With the rough conditions setting the stage for a tough battle of attrition, this isn't a race to miss. Here's a look at all the information you'll need to know to catch the action.
Where: Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky
When: Saturday, June 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Steam: TNTDrama.com
Radio: Performance Racing Network
Drivers to Watch
One driver who didn't seem to be affected by the bumpy condition of the Kentucky Speedway in qualifying was Brad Keselowski. For the third time this season, the Team Penske driver will start in pole position.
Keselowski hasn't just been excellent in qualifying this year, though. It's carried over to his overall performance as he's right in the thick of things in the Sprint Cup standings with one win and seven top-10 finishes on the season.
In addition to his success in qualifying, Keselowski can also look to Friday's Nationwide Series run for confidence heading into Saturday night's race. He took second in the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 and probably would have won the race if it weren't for a pit-stop mishap, as noted by the Nationwide Series on Twitter:
With a shot at redemption for his costly mistake, Keselowski should be considered a favorite.
As the current leader of the Sprint Cup Series, Jeff Gordon is a driver to watch in every race. After qualifying third in Kentucky, he's once again in a great position to add to that lead.
Keselowski may have edged out Gordon in qualifying, but the Hendrick Motorsports driver won't let Team Penske's success in qualifying put a damper on his plans to compete, per Jeff Gluck of USA Today Sports:
At this point, we've kind of gotten used to it and accustomed to it... We're always going to work hard to try and beat it and figure out what they're doing -- they're really doing an amazing job with their cars during qualifying -- but we seem to have something for them when they drop the green flag in the race.
It's tough to fault Gordon for feeling he can best Keselowski once the actual racing starts. As the current leader, he should feel like he can beat anyone on any day.
However, finding the checkered flag won't be easy. Kentucky Speedway is the only track in the series that Gordon has not won at, per Gluck.
As mentioned earlier, there are some unique challenges to managing the track at Kentucky Speedway. The added turbulence of the track definitely impacts drivers, and thus previous success at the track is a must when picking potential winners.
Fortunately for Matt Kenseth, previous success bodes well for the 42-year-old. According to DriverAverages.com, he's found more success on the track than anyone else in the field over the last two years.
That, of course, is impacted heavily by his victory in this race last season.
As for this year, Kenseth has yet to see the winner's circle. Even though he's currently fourth in the standings, the lack of a win could wind up being devastating to his season.
Kenseth will need to put his Kentucky experience on display early on. Starting out at No. 14 after a so-so qualifying effort, he'll have some ground to make up.
That being said, don't be surprised when he's making a desperate push to win the race down the final stretch.