We kind of had a feeling that someone like Kyle Busch would hit on something at Kentucky Speedway and have an edge.
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Particularly this past weekend, running all three events there – the Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup races – like Kyle did, truly was beneficial to drivers. It simply gave a lot of guys who had very little experience on that particular track a lot more seat time in race mode.
Kyle was fortunate to enjoy a lot of success at Kentucky Speedway.
Thursday night in the Truck race he started in the rear of the field but came back to win.
Friday night he was in a backup car with no practice laps on it and brought it home in third in the Nationwide race.
Then obviously Saturday night, starting from the pole, Kyle turned in a dominating performance, holding off David Reutimann and Jimmie Johnson at the end to win his third Cup race of the year.
Let’s face it, Saturday night he even did it on old tires there at the end. Jimmie Johnson came and got four tires on that last caution. Kyle didn’t and still held him off. That’s how strong that No. 18 car was all night.
So Kyle Busch is one guy that is very happy that Kentucky Speedway was added to the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. Overall it was a good race. A new tradition of racing has now been started in Kentucky. I really think it will be with us and our sport for a long, long time.
You know back when the original investors began building Kentucky Speedway, Bill France Jr., then CEO of NASCAR, was very up front with them that they needed to understand there was a very slim chance of being awarded a Cup date from NASCAR.
The investors kept their heads down and built the place as if one day they would get a Cup date and they wanted to be ready for it. It was sort of the “if you build it they will come” mentality.
Well obviously, through a lot of ups and downs and turmoil, the biggest thing to come their way was Bruton Smith.
Bruton Smith and his Speedway Motorsports Inc. bought the track from the initial investors and moved one of the company’s race dates from another of his tracks to Kentucky.
As I mentioned last week, it has been 10 years since we have been to a new venue. You could see the excitement from Kyle of being the first-ever Sprint Cup winner at Kentucky Speedway. Whether the Cup series races there for 20 years or 120 years, they can never take away the fact that Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing and the entire No. 18 team won the inaugural event at Kentucky Speedway.
There’s only one first.
With his third Cup win in 2011, Kyle is sending a clear message to Jimmie that he wants the crown.
In addition to that we have several drivers we are watching. Carl Edwards is one. He has had to overcome two bad races in the last four events. He fought and clawed to get a top-five finish Saturday night in Kentucky. I think he is a real contender to unseat Jimmie this year.
Kevin Harvick lost the points lead after finishing 16th at Kentucky. You can never count Kevin out, though. He also has three wins this year.
Kurt Busch has obviously been on a hot streak of late. He’s sitting fourth in the points. Our five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson, has now moved into fifth in the points and people have learned this last handful of years you can never count him out.
But is there one dominant driver who is on a hot streak and everyone’s clear choice to be champion? No there isn’t.
Like I mentioned, Kevin and Kyle have three wins. Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon each have a couple. We are officially in the second half of the season and there are only eight races to go until the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins. Again, I simply don’t see anyone with a hot streak and an upper hand right now. I still think it is anyone’s game.
These are eight very different racetracks coming up leading to the Chase. There are some interesting battles shaping up for those two wild-card spots, especially now with Denny Hamlin moving into the top 10.
What’s really interesting is that right now, we only have one driver outside the top 10 in points that has a win and is in position to snare that wild-card spot. You also have Brad Keselowki and Regan Smith with wins, but they are outside the top 20 in points. Don’t forget that they cannot be considered for the two Wild Card spots until they are in the top 20 in points.
I simply can’t wait for these next eight races because there are so many things that can and will happen.
You’ve got a road course in there, plus two short-track races. You’ve got New Hampshire Motor Speedway this week, plus going back to Pocono Raceway and then obviously the Brickyard at Indy.
The action is going to be fast and furious. I think everyone is going to need a scorecard to keep up with all the changes in the points battle to get into the 2011 Chase from week to week.