The ninth annual Quaker State 400 takes place tonight at Kentucky Speedway. Kentucky marks the dog days for the NASCAR season as we enter a stretch of multiple tracks that are notorious for providing subpar racing(New Hampshire, Pocono, Michigan). The schismatic aero package will once again be on display but should not make the racing look any different than in years prior. The self-proclaimed “toughest corner in NASCAR” in turn 3 at the track will make it impossible for drivers to hold the throttle down, thus, will allow the cars that work better in dirty air to work their way through the field with ease. If there was ever a 1.5-mile circuit that would be bogged down by this aero package, this is the one. With the high downforce setup, these cars will stick to the track and turn 3 will not be as treacherous with cars getting aero loose and affecting tire wear. If you tune in tonight, set your expectations for a race as tedious as last year or worse so that you will not be left dissatisfied.
Daniel Suarez will lead the field to green after claiming his second career pole. Stewart-Haas Racing should be the team to beat tonight as all four of their cars start inside the top 10 and also showed speed in race trim during practice. Kevin Harvick’s season has been lackluster for his standards but can turn it around swiftly with a win tonight. Clint Bowyer is another SHR driver who could use a win. He currently sits 15th in the Cup Series standings and is only four points above the playoff cutline. Along with Suarez, Kyle Larson and Erik Jones are drivers that are in desperation mode to get a win. Larson has not won since 2017 and is near the playoff cutline. The rumors keep floating around that Jones could lose his job if he fails to get a win before the playoffs and winds up missing the postseason. Jones is the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver without a win and outside the playoff standings. Do not expect much from any Chevrolets in tonight’s race. While Hendrick has been competitive on these 1.5-mile tracks, they lacked the speed in practice and qualifying to give me any hopes of one of them pulling out a victory.
When it comes to Chevy, Kurt Busch looks to be the favorite. He will roll off fourth tonight and could give Ganassi Racing a much-needed win and earn Busch another season with competitive equipment. However, I am going to play it safe and take Martin Truex Jr. to three-peat at Kentucky and claim his fifth win of the season. If not Truex, then another dominant driver from this season will win; whether it be Keselowski, Kyle Busch or Logano. My dark horse pick for tonight will be Aric Almirola as Stewart-Haas is the team to beat.
You can catch tonight’s race on NBC Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. EST or on PRN Radio.
Photo via Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP