FIRED UP — No one is happier to be at Kentucky Speedway this weekend than Martin Truex Jr., who on Sunday broke a 218-race winless streak with a dominating victory on the Sonoma Raceway road course.
Truex said he was keenly aware that his victory thrust he and his Michael Waltrip Racing team into the media spotlight. And he’s good with it.
“At the end of the day, this sport is all about performance, it’s all about winning,” Truex said Friday at Kentucky, where he was 24th-fastest in Happy Hour. “That’s what everybody talks about and that’s what everybody wants to talk about — who’s winning, who’s going to win next, who needs to win more.”
Truex is glad to have attention paid to what his team accomplished.
“This is the toughest sport in the world and the guys that are really good win a lot,” he said. “ We haven’t won enough so hopefully we’ll win some more. That (popularity with the media) will go away if we don’t win again in a couple weeks. Right now it’s a hot topic and we’re damn happy to be a hot topic right now.”
ROUSH RISING — After a brief slump, Roush Fenway Racing seems to be back on track. Greg Biffle finished second at Pocono Raceway, won at Michigan International Speedway and scored a top-10 finish on the Sonoma Raceway road course.
Likewise, Carl Edwards is second in points and is coming off a strong third-place run at Sonoma. Edwards said Friday that he enjoys the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway where all three of NASCAR’s top series are racing this week.
Asked by SPEED’s Ray Dunlap how different Kentucky is from some of the other 1.5-mile tracks, Edwards said, “It’s very different and it’s different for some good reasons. It’s really bumpy, it’s got a lot of character and the two turns are very different. …. Turn 3 is a really flat corner with tons of bumps and picks up into huge banking off of Turn 4. Turns 1 and 2 are really bumpy. And I think that’s neat. The tires fall off, too. As you run, they get slower. All those things make for good racing.”
In the opening round of practice Friday, Edwards was 18th on the speed charts. But in the final Happy Hour round, Edwards jumped up all the way to second.
GETTING TESTY — Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team tested at Kentucky Speedway earlier this year. But not by Harvick’s choice.
This year, each NASCAR Sprint Cup team can test at four tracks where NASCAR’s races are staged. Friday at the track, Harvick said he isn’t the guy who gets to decide where to test.
“Honestly, I haven’t even been asked where to test,” Harvick said Friday morning at Kentucky Speedway. “Let me rephrase that. I’ve been asked where to test, but never really been in the meetings as to how those conclusions have been come up with. We all kind of put in a hat as to where we want to test, and the crew chiefs and management decide where they want to go from there. You get asked, and hopefully the decisions are made from a group of common denominators I guess you could say of the tracks that were picked. The crew chiefs and management make those final decisions.”
As for his preference, Harvick laughed. “I would rather not test anywhere to be honest with you.”
HAIL MARY — When it comes to drivers expected to contend for a championship, no one is in a bigger hole than Denny Hamlin, who up until now has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup in each season he’s raced full time.
Hamlin is 83 points out of 20th place with 10 races left in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup regular season. To make the Chase, Hamlin will have to get in the top 20 points and – in all probability – win at least two and probably three of the next 10 races. The odds of success are very remote.
There are two reasons for Hamlin’s struggles: He missed four races with a broken vertebra, and in the seven races since he returned, he finished 23rd once and 30th or worse three times.
“I think Denny learned a lot of stuff and saw a lot of stuff sitting out those few races, which has helped the organization and I believe that now him being back in the seat they are doing everything they can and they are sort of throwing ‘Hail Mary’s’ a little bit maybe,” said Kyle Busch, Hamlin’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing. “One of these days it might stick and they’ll hit it. Nothing against what those guys are doing — they run a little bit different setup than Matt Kenseth and I do every weekend. One of these weekends it might hit and they will show us all that they can still win, which they are capable of doing."
ALLISON IS GRAND — During his NASCAR Hall of Fame career, Bobby Allison won the Daytona 500 three times, the July Daytona NASCAR Sprint Cup race three times and a total of 16 races at the venerable superspeedway.
On July 5 at DIS, Allison will serve as Grand Marshal for the Subway Firecracker 250 Powered By Coca-Cola NASCAR Nationwide Series race. He will give the starting command to the 40-car field that will do battle in the 100-lap, 250-mile race.