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Saturday night's Quaker State 400 will be just the fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup race held at the Kentucky Speedway, a 1.5-mile oval. The track features 14-degree banking in the turns, and a tri-oval configuration on front-stretch. The race has only been won by a driver starting outside of the top 10 once, and that was Matt Kenseth's win from the 16th starting position last year. Neither Ford nor Chevrolet has tasted victory at the track, but its limited time on the schedule is a bigger factor in that statistic than the performance of those manufacturers.
Last year's race saw Kenseth snatch victory away from Jimmie Johnson on a late fuel-only pit stop that put him ahead of the No. 48. A following restart saw Johnson spin from contention after dominating the running up to that point. After the initial night race was rained out, the reschedule during the day threw teams a curveball for chassis setup, and the Hendrick Motorsports team was the one that nailed it. This race can be won with either sheer speed or cunning pit strategy.
Jimmie Johnson - Johnson has not hesitated to make Kentucky Speedway another track where he stands out. His record from the three Cup races held there already includes an average finish of sixth, despite not yet scoring a victory. Every result thus far has been a top-10 run, and his driver rating of 125.9 demonstrates just how good he has been here. Chad Knaus and Johnson have a certain knack for outperforming the competition on 1.5-mile ovals, and this week's race should give them an opportunity to check the win box at yet another track on the schedule. Johnson would also make a safe selection for team captain this week, especially considering last year's dominance where he led 182 laps.
Brad Keselowski - One of the three drivers to notch a victory at Kentucky is the No. 2 of Keselowski. The former champion took the win in 2012, notching consecutive top-10 finishes at the track before recording a 33rd-place finish last season. His average finish from those three tries is 13.7, and his driver rating is 104.8. His 22nd-place finish in Sonoma conflicts with his current run of four consecutive top-10 finishes leading to last week's roadcourse. Clearly, Kentucky Speedway is a very different track than Sonoma, though. Keselowski and the Penske Racing team have been on song and in harmony for most of the season thus far and will want to return with more top-10 finishes as soon as possible.
Carl Edwards - Fresh off of his second victory of the season, Edwards will work to carry some momentum forward into Kentucky this weekend. This team has been fairly quiet except for their wins, and wasn't able to finish in the top-10 in any of the three races directly preceding last week's Toyota/Save Mart 350. Fantasy players need to remember that the No. 99's last two top-10 finishes came on the 1.5-mile ovals of Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway in May, though. Those results, when coupled with last week's win, certainly give Edwards the edge in the momentum category. The question fantasy players will need to answer is whether or not they think Edwards can top Johnson.
Kyle Busch - Busch could be an interesting option for fantasy rosters this week. He is currently in a slump, having not scored a top-10 finish since the Coca-Cola 600 in May. His weekend at Sonoma Raceway was another disappointment with a late spin relegating him to a 25th-place finish. At Kentucky, however, the driver of the No. 18 car has an average finish of 5.3 with a win, two top-5s, and three top-10s. His driver rating is also a very good one at 125.2, which is by far the best comparison to Johnson's rating. Fantasy players will need to assess whether or not they think Busch can overcome his recent results and turn things around this weekend. The statistics would suggest that is likely.
Matt Kenseth - Another driver that will require a bit more thought than normal before including on rosters this week is Kenseth. The No. 20 driver is in the midst of a slump, just like Busch, and hasn't visited the top-10 in any of the last three races. He had a miserable weekend in California where his practice and qualifying was off pace, and wound up finishing 42nd in a race that saw him exit due to contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kenseth has a solid Kentucky record, in fact his average finish in the three races held there is the best in the field. He scored the win here last year, and boasts one of the top driver ratings at 109.3. Kentucky gives him a great opportunity to reverse his slide.
Greg Biffle - Biffle's top-10 finish in last week's Toyota/Save Mart 350 ended a string of five races without a top-10 for the driver of the No. 16. Biffle's last top-10 actually came in the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, which seems so long ago at this point. The team will need to score more top finishes quickly as the Chase for the Championship approaches rapidly. Biffle does not have a win yet this season, and currently holds the 15th spot in points. Unfortunately, his Kentucky record does not inspire much confidence either. Biffle has yet to score a top-10 at the track, and his best finish was 21st, which he did twice. Trends do not appear to favor the veteran this week.
Tony Stewart - Remarkably, Stewart's name appears toward the bottom of the Kentucky statistics. His three races at track have produced a best finish of 12th, and an average result of 21.3. He only led one lap at the track in that span, and carries a driver rating of 70.9. Stewart is struggling in points, but has shown some signs of life. Also in his corner is his tendency to come to the fore as summer progresses. His last top-10 finish was at Dover Speedway four races ago. This is about the point in every season where Stewart would be blazing a trail toward the top of standings, but he hasn't quite shown the same speed as his teammates thus far. Fantasy players may want to see more proof before selection.
Austin Dillon - Dillon has started showing some cracks in his rookie armor recently, failing to score a top-15 result for six consecutive races now. Earlier in the season those results were commonplace for the Richard Childress Racing driver. The good news is that Dillon has a strong NASCAR Nationwide Series record at Kentucky, scoring back-to-back wins at the track in 2012. He also has one Sprint Cup start here where he finished 24th after starting 26th. Of the rookies this season, Kyle Larson has outshone the competition, though. Fantasy players should expect more from Dillon in the second half of the season, but should also be concerned about his lack of top-15 finishes. Waiting to see proof of a turnaround could serve owners well this week.
Marcos Ambrose - Last week's Toyota/Save Mart 350 may have been one of the two serious chances Ambrose will have to score a win to earn himself a spot in this year's Chase, and it was a disappointment. The former road racer qualified terribly, and was forced to overtake the majority of the field to score his eighth-place result. That finish was his first top-10 since Martinsville Speedway's STP 500, and his third of the season. This week we return to a 1.5-mile oval, a track that Ambrose has yet to score a top-10 finish on this season. In fact, he hasn't scored a top-10 at Kentucky yet. Based on the struggles he has had making an impact this season it might be best for fantasy players to look elsewhere.
Kasey Kahne - Kahne may have the opportunity to pull a surprise out of the bag this week in Kentucky. The No. 5 team has struggled for much of the season, and hasn't been as quick or consistent as his Hendrick Motorsports teammates. He rattled off consecutive top-10s in the past two races, though. His Kentucky record boasts an average finish of 8.7 with a worst finish of 13th. His driver rating is in the top-five drivers at 98.2. The combination of consecutive top finishes and his relative Kentucky success may make him a worthy fantasy option this week. He is underperforming in the points, currently holding 16th position, but could offer fantasy players plenty of upside potential this week.