NASCAR at Kentucky 2014: Winners and Losers from the Quaker State 400

Brendan O'Meara@@BrendanOMearaFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2014

NASCAR at Kentucky 2014: Winners and Losers from the Quaker State 400

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    Brad Keselowski became the sixth driver in 2014 to win multiple races by dominating the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

    Keselowski was the man to catch all night. Any time he fell behind (which wasn't often), he surged right up to the leader and passed on the outside. Paul Wolfe, his crew chief, said after the race on the TNT broadcast, "I'm proud of the effort. The last month-and-a-half we put together some great races."

    Several other drivers picked up the pieces from last week's trip around Sonoma's road course in their efforts to keep pace in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

    Carry on to see who won and lost in Kentucky.

Winner: Brad Keselowski

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    Brad Keselowksi became the first driver in the short history of the Quaker State 400 to win it multiple times. He won it back in 2012 and repeated in 2014.

    Keselowski led 199 out 267 laps on Saturday. It was a positively dominant effort that left everyone chasing him into the night.

    Fox Sports Tom Jensen wrote:

    Keselowski's second victory of the season and 12th of his career made him the sixth driver to officially lock himself into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It was the fourth victory of the season for Team Penske, second only to the six won by Hendrick Motorsports. And Keselowski and [Joey] Logano made it look like child's play, leading 236 of 267 laps at the 1.5-mile Kentucky track.

    "We had such a fast car," Keselowski said during the TNT broadcast. "I was waiting for something to go wrong. This engine was killer."

    Keselowski won for the second time in 2014, becoming the sixth driver to win multiple races.

Loser: Pit-Road Snafus

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    At this point in the season, it should come as no surprise that Kevin Harvick had a problem on pit road. At one point, Harvick pitted and lost 14 spots. It's hard to evaluate just what it cost the No. 4, but he finished seventh on the night, which only signifies he had a fast car.

    Jeff Gordon, who finished sixth, also had a problem on pit road, as his team's tire gun broke and cost him several spots.

    "We had a strong, competitive effort," Gordon said during the TNT broadcast. "That's why we're so good week in and week out. I thought we'd be better than that. We had some issues, and we got behind."

    Harvick's team did step up after the poor pit stop, so that has to be encouraging heading to Daytona next week.

Winner: Team Penske

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    When Keselowski wasn't leading the race, his teammate, Joey Logano, was.

    It was a great effort for Team Penske, which saw the No. 2 and the No. 22 lead for well over 200 laps over the course of the night.

    Keselowski won the race, and Logano faded to finish ninth, but all in all, it was a race to remember for these two drivers from Team Penske.

Loser: Kentucky Speedway

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    With every lap, the wide camera shots showed a nearly full field of cars, rubber-streaked driving paths and a grandstand with tons of empty chairs.

    It's the equivalent of watching a baseball game and seeing empty seats behind home plate: It gives the illusion that people aren't willing to show up for the main event. Maybe people saw fit to watch it on television, or maybe it was past their bed time.

    Also, much has been made about the bumpy race track. There's character in a track, then there's something that burns tires and puts drivers such as Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth in the garage or in the pits prematurely.

    No one would be going out on a limb to suggest that the drivers would like to see this track resurfaced.

Winner: Intuition

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    Matt Kenseth, who finished fourth on the night, almost became yet another casualty of right-tire malfunction, but he felt something was off and turned his car into the pits. He had a flat tire, and it could have been much, much worse.

    Kenseth is starving for a win in 2014. He's fifth overall in the points and the leader of those drivers who haven't won a race on the Chase Grid. He won at Kentucky a year ago, so the feeling was that he'd be able to reclaim some of that magic. And, to an extent, he did.

    He still drove a strong race, getting into the top five and rebounding after a showing in Sonoma where he didn't finish for the first time this season. Points are important to Kenseth, especially if he can't park his car on Victory Lane any time soon.

Loser: Right Front Tires

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    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    Denny Hamlin crawled out of his window and did a few stretches. He took his helmet off and left it on the chair. It was Lap 29, and his day was done.

    His right front tire blew out, and he skidded along the outer wall in Turn 4. Tire issues would be a theme over the course of the night. The worst part? Hamlin was in third at the time before a tow truck brought his car to the garage for good.

    "We needed one more lap," Hamlin said during the TNT broadcast, referring to the competition caution on Lap 30 to check the track after bad weather poured through earlier in the day. "You always wanted to keep the right front under you. I heard it pop. Joe Gibbs Racing, we're taking a turn for the better."

    Not this week. It was his third straight week out of the top 25. But his other Joe Gibbs driver did turn in a winning effort.

Winner: Kyle Busch

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    Kyle Busch's last four efforts haven't exactly inspired a lot of confidence. They have been 25th, 41st, 12th and 42nd. So when he led for close to 30 laps toward the end of the Quaker State 400, it was a welcome sight, especially when he finished second to a dominating Keselowski.

    Busch won the inaugural race at Kentucky Speedway, so he knew what it took to grind out a quality showing on a rough track.

    Busch dealt with a loose car all evening and still managed to threaten Keselowski and lock down a runner-up performance.

Loser: Rookies

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    Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    Kyle Larson, the much-heralded rookie in the Sprint Cup Series, had a truncated afternoon when his No. 42 Chevy blew a right front tire that vaulted him into the wall.

    He skidded along the outer wall, and his day ended in a flash at Lap 77.

    "I'm OK," Larson said during the TNT broadcast, "It was a right front, big hit. It sucks. We were hoping for a big point day. Oh well. That's how it goes. We'll try and get it to Daytona and get some points."

    Larson wasn't the only rookie who ran into trouble. Alex Bowman spun out and locked out his tires. He created a smoke screen that sent Jamie McMurray and Aric Almirola to the garage. Both were in the top 10 at the time.