The NASCAR Sprint Series has competed just four times at Kentucky Speedway, so is it really possible to pick five contenders to win Saturday night’s Quaker State 400? We think so, and we count them down – from the least likely to the most likely to end up in Victory Lane.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesRobert Laberge
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Fresh off his second win of the season that came in early Monday morning’s chaotic Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is seeking his first win at Kentucky. Since finishing 30th in the inaugural race at the 1.5-mile track, NASCAR’s most popular driver has come home fourth, 12th and fifth, respectively. He’s been solid, though not spectacular, at the mile-and-a-half tracks so far this year, and will likely be a factor in Saturday night’s decision with just a little more speed in his No. 88 Chevy.
Getty ImagesScott Halleran
4. Matt Kenseth
No driver has been a better picture of consistency at Kentucky than 2003 Sprint Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth. A winner two years ago in the Bluegrass State, Kenseth has finished no worse than seventh in four starts here – doing so with two different teams. Kenseth finished sixth and seventh, respectively, at Kentucky with Roush Fenway Racing, and has been even better since joining Joe Gibbs Racing, winning in 2013 and finishing fourth a season ago.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesJohn Harrelson
3. Kevin Harvick
Surprisingly, Kevin Harvick has been less than impressive at Kentucky Speedway, where the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion has come home no better than seventh in his four starts. Harvick has been downright phenomenal on the 1.5-mile tracks this season, however, and has set the standard for consistency with 15 top-10 finishes in 17 starts. It’s probably only a matter of time before he adds one of Kentucky’s chrome-plated Thoroughbred trophies to his collection.
NASCAR via Getty ImagesJared C. Tilton
2. Kyle Busch
No driver comes to Kentucky more motivated to get a win and run up front than the track’s inaugural Sprint Cup race winner, Kyle Busch. Since returning from injuries that forced him to miss the season’s first 11 races, the driver of the No. 18 Toyota has picked up a win – which came at Sonoma late last month – but has been woefully inconsistent. To make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Busch will need to make up major ground over the next nine weeks to get to 30th in the standings. He comes to Kentucky 37th in the standings, 128 points behind 30th-place Cole Whitt. If the 30th position continues on its current pace, Busch will need to average a finish of 13th over the next nine races to earn a top 30 spot. Busch’s three top fives at Kentucky are the most among all drivers.
MCT via Getty ImagesDavid Stephenson
1. Brad Keselowski
Who’s the prohibitive favorite to win at Kentucky? Try the Sprint Cup Series’ only two-time winner in the Bluegrass State. That would be Brad Keselowski, who has gone to Victory Lane twice (2012 and 2014) in the four Sprint Cup races run here and did so from the pole last season. The Team Penske driver has led 346 of the 954 laps he’s completed here, and finished in the top seven in three of his four Kentucky outings. The 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion could certainly stand a strong run after uncharacteristically struggling – at least by his standards – in recent weeks. Keselowski’s last top five came all the way back on May 11 at Texas Motor Speedway.