Sparta, KY (Sports Network) - It's "go time" for several drivers in the Sprint
Cup Series, as the race to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship is on.
This weekend's 400-mile event at Kentucky Speedway begins the 10-race stretch
that precedes the playoffs for NASCAR's top series. Following Kentucky, the
series will run at Daytona, New Hampshire, Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen,
Michigan, Bristol and Atlanta before the regular season concludes on Sept. 7
at Richmond. The Chase begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland.
The top-10 in points after Richmond will qualify for the Chase. The 11th and
12th spots in the Chase field are the wild cards, which go to those drivers
between 11th-20th in points that have the most wins.
Right now, Martin Truex Jr. holds the 10th spot in the point standings. After
snapping his long 218-race winless streak this past Sunday in Sonoma, Calif.,
Truex moved up three spots in the rankings. He has an eight-point advantage
over 11th-place Kasey Kahne, who has one victory this season (March 17 at
Truex, who is in his fourth season with Michael Waltrip Racing, is hoping to
make his second consecutive and third overall appearance in the Chase.
"I am not thinking about points until after the race at Richmond," Truex said.
"I stopped focusing on it and landed in victory lane. It's amazing to think
that we are in the position we are in. It's been a roller coaster of a season,
and if we can keep the bad luck from biting us, I think we will be in good
Truex would love nothing more than to win at Kentucky on Saturday, the same
day he turns 33 years old. He's had very good finishes on the mile and a half
tracks in the past.
"Kentucky should be a good race for us," he said. "We had a really good run
there last year. We finished eighth. Our 1.5-mile program has been really
impressive this year."
Kahne is presently atop the wild card rankings, while Tony Stewart holds the
second spot due to his win earlier this month at Dover. Stewart finished 28th
at Sonoma and dropped from 10th to 15th in points (-20 behind Truex).
While Stewart took a tumble in points, Jeff Gordon gained some ground with his
second-place run at Sonoma. Gordon bounced back from a disappointing 39th
place finish at Michigan. He is now 12 points behind Truex.
"We're just going to go and push hard and perform and try to put more finishes
like this together," Gordon said after his runner-up finish at Sonoma. "If we
live up to our potential and we don't get caught up in some of these silly
things that we have been caught up in this year, there's no doubt in my mind
we can work our way into the top-10."
Of the 23 racetracks on the current Sprint Cup schedule, Gordon has won at
every one of them except Kentucky, which joined the series in 2011. Kyle Busch
won the inaugural race here two years ago. Brad Keselowski scored the victory
at this track last season.
"I think it would be cool to win at Kentucky and knock it off the list,"
Gordon said. "I'd love to win at every track. That would be a special
accomplishment. And I need to win here before more tracks are added to the
Last November, Gordon scratched Homestead off of his tracks where he had yet
to win. His first victory at the South Florida track came in his 14th start
Keselowski, the defending series champion, sits ninth in the standings (just
seven points ahead of Truex). He has yet to win a race this season.
"Our team's goals for this season is to obviously defend the championship from
last year and to win some races," Keselowski said. "We feel like we have that
capability. We just have to dig in deep and find it here. But we're still in a
pretty good spot (in points)."
Busch, who has two wins this year, is eighth in points. His victories came in
Fontana, Calif. and Texas.
Behind Kahne and Stewart in the wild card standings are Paul Menard, who is
12th in points, followed by Gordon, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch.
Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jeff Burton complete the top-10.
Forty-three teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Quaker State 400.
Kyle Busch and Keselowski are those Sprint Cup regulars competing in all three
NASCAR races at Kentucky this week.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, June 29. Race: Quaker State 400.
Site: Kentucky Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 7:30 p.m. ET. Laps:
267. Miles: 400.5. 2012 Winner: Brad Keselowski. Television: TNT. Radio:
Performance Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
The Sports Network