Anthony Ballantoni

Mid-Pack Attack

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Kentucky: Quaker State 400

Thursday, July 07, 2011


Track history: Located in Sparta, Kentucky, and constructed on 850 acres of land, Kentucky Speedway is a 1.5-mile tri-oval with 14-degree banking in the turns and a 1,600-foot backstretch. The tri-oval is 57-feet wide and includes a 12-foot apron. The facility also features a paved quarter-mile track.
On July 10, 1998 an investor group broke ground for the speedway. The first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Kroger 225 was held on June 17, 2000. Greg Biffle was the series first winner. Tim Steele won the July 2, 2000 inaugural ARCA Series Kentucky ARCA 150. The open-wheel IndyCar series made their first start at the speedway on August 27, 2000 with the victory going to Buddy Lazier. The NASCAR Nationwide Series made its debut at the track on June 16, 2001. Kevin Harvick earned the distinction of being the first NNS winner at the 1.5 mile tri-oval. In the second NNS trip to the Sparta track (June 16, 2002), Todd Bodine beat Greg Biffle to the finish by .036 seconds in the closest series finish in track history.
At end of 2008, Kentucky Speedway joined Atlanta, Bristol, Infineon, Las Vegas, Charlotte, New Hampshire and Texas as the 8th member of the Bruton Smith owned Speedway Motorsports Inc. Starting in early 2009, SMI invested $13.5 million on and enhancement project which included expanded parking, 200 infield campsites, improved track access roads, a new entrance area and a restroom/bathhouse facility.
SMI filed a lawsuit in July 2005 against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp., alleging the companies violated federal antitrust laws by illegally restricting the awarding of Cup races. On August 10, 2010, Bruton Smith announced that Kentucky Speedway would hold an inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 400-mile event on July 9, 2011.

There were 48 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's Cup race. Here are our picks for Saturday night's Quaker State 400 in Sparta, Kentucky.

Mid-Pack picks

Without any previous Sprint Cup history at Kentucky Speedway we have to look at driver performance at similar 1.5 mile tracks and, also, at drivers who have some prior Nationwide Series or Truck Series experience at the Sparta track.

Joey Logano is our top pick of the week. He made only three Nationwide Series starts (2008, 2009 and 2010) at Kentucky Speedway. He qualified on the pole for all three. He took the checkered flag for all three. How can you argue with a perfect score? In addition to the inaugural Cup race on Saturday night, Logano is attempting to make it four straight in Friday night's Nationwide Series event at Kentucky Speedway.

Next, we're looking at the most recent Sprint Cup winner at the 1.5 mile Kansas Speedway, Brad Keselowski. He also scored top tens in his last three Nationwide starts at Kansas. In his last two NNS races at the similar Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Keselowski posted a 4th and a 3rd place. Like Logano, he also did well at Kentucky in the NNS. In three starts, he finished 4th, 3rd and 3rd. He, too, will be running the 'tune-up' Nationwide race on Friday night. Keselowski may not repeat with a the Kentucky top 5 in the Quaker State 400 but a top 15 is not out of the question.

Martin Truex Jr. is really looking forward to racing at this track. He said this week: "Kentucky is a great track and it's certainly deserving of a Cup race. I've raced there in the Nationwide Series and won the pole and had a shot at winning every time I've raced there. A lot of the teams used to test there so it's not totally new to us. I love the place." In his last two starts here he posted a 6th (from the pole) and a 3rd (from a 2nd place spot in the lineup). We think Truex has as good a chance as any to contend for the inaugural victory.

Our final pick is coming off the Coke Zero 400 victory at Daytona. David Ragan has two Nationwide starts at Kentucky (both resulted in top-10 finishes). One of his two Truck Series races at Kentucky ended in a 5th place after leading 18 laps. Ragan ran at the Sparta track in four ARCA series races, averaging a 17th place finish with a best result of 2nd place. Besides carrying the momentum from last week's win, the team is bringing the exact same car he drove to a 2nd place finish at Charlotte this past May in the Coca-Cola 600. Give the No. 6 a look to round out your roster this week.


Tony Ballantoni runs the NASCAR coverage at RotoWorld.com.
Email :Anthony Ballantoni


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